Wind turbine plant to create 2,000 jobs

Wind turbine giant Vestas is planning to build a new factory in the UK, creating 2,000 jobs, the company said today.

The Danish-owned firm is applying for planning permission for a new plant at Sheerness in Kent to build turbines for the offshore wind industry.

The announcement is a huge boost for the UK's renewable energy sector and follows Vestas' controversial decision to close a factory on the Isle of Wight with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Greenpeace said today's announcement was "excellent news", showing there were huge opportunities in the UK for renewable energy.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "This is excellent news and shows that there are real jobs and huge opportunities for the UK in renewable energy.

"The Government now needs to create the right regulatory framework to build a sustainable green economy.

"This must include removing the blockages to faster take-up of renewable energy, including giving the Green Investment Bank the ability to borrow money and setting ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020."

Greenpeace called on the Government to ensure support for offshore wind, including improving skills and training, the electricity grid and the offshore planning regime and making sure planned reform of the energy market backs renewables rather than focusing on nuclear.

The news is a massive boost for Kent after drug giant Pfizer said earlier this year that it would be shedding more than 2,000 jobs when it shuts its renowned research and development facility at Sandwich.

The UK is the world's largest offshore wind market and has a massive offshore project pipeline.

Vestas said the project will go ahead provided it receives enough orders for its V164-7.0 MW purpose-built offshore turbine.

A spokesman said: "Vestas is prepared to make the necessary significant investment in turning the option into a full lease and building the planned new production facilities, thereby creating more than 2,000 direct and indirect new jobs provided the V164-7.0 MW order pipeline materialises as expected.

"With this option agreement in place, Vestas has shown our willingness and commitment to making major investments benefiting the UK, but Vestas alone cannot make it happen."

The company said the plan was reliant on market and regulatory certainty and public investment to reduce the risk of building a facility of such a size.

Anders Soe-Jensen, president of Vestas Offshore A/S, said: "We have shown our intentions to make major investments and subsequent job creation, but it is evident that we don't just jump head-first into an investment of this size.

"We need to make sure it makes sense business-wise.

"Before our customers can provide us with the needed order pipeline, they need to see stability in the market and a long-term political and regulatory certainty that ensures their business case.

"Making that happen lies in the hands of the policy-makers, so we are looking forward to seeing the UK Government providing the best possible terms for the offshore wind industry to truly take off and the potential jobs becoming a reality."

The announcement comes after more than 400 jobs were lost on the Isle of Wight when Vestas closed its wind turbine factory in Newport in 2009.

Swale Borough Council leader Andrew Bowles said: "We are delighted at the prospect of what this announcement means for Swale, and for Sheerness specifically.

"We have been working with the South East England Development Agency (Seeda), Peel Ports and Kent County Council for almost a year and a half to arrive at this point and clearly are very pleased that such a major, industry-leading company has formally announced its firm interest in locating in the borough.

"While due planning processes have to be adhered to, a manufacturing base of such a scale could see the creation of thousands of jobs in the borough.

"Although there is a long way to go, such an announcement is extremely positive news for everyone on the island, and in Swale as a whole."

Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, told BBC Radio Kent: "We have got 2,700 people unemployed in my constituency and my first priority as MP was to do whatever I possibly could do to reduce that number.

"I'm absolutely passionate that my constituency becomes the economic dynamo of Kent and I think we are in a good position to do that."