Ports plan prompts Spanish wind giant’s UK boost

Within hours of yesterday’s £60m ports plan being given the go-ahead, Spanish wind turbine giant Gamesa revealed massive offshore investment plans for the UK. Gamesa, which has more than 18,000 […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Within hours of yesterday’s £60m ports plan being given the go-ahead, Spanish wind turbine giant Gamesa revealed massive offshore investment plans for the UK.

Gamesa, which has more than 18,000 MW installed in 20 countries on four continents, said it would create a research and development centre for offshore wind and a turbine manufacturing plant at two separate sites in the UK. It also plans to base its global offshore HQ in London.

Gamesa did not specify where the R&D site and factory will be, but it is highly likely that one or both will be in Scotland. The company was one of several Spanish energy firms courted last month by First Minister Alex Salmond as potential multi-billion pound investors.

Gamesa chairman Jorge Calvert said yesterday: “The UK’s resolute decision to enact an ambitious offshore plan, along with the country’s support for foreign investment and the availability of large ports, which are essential in this business, convinced us to make the decision to base the global headquarters of our offshore activity in the UK.”

One of the front runners to win Gamesa’s business is Dundee. The city was visited by the energy giant last month and council leader Ken Guild is upbeat. “Dundee has a great deal to offer companies like Gamesa,” he said. “They had a look at Dundee and seemed to be quite happy with what they saw. I think Dundee made a very strong case to be included in the investment in the UK and I would hope that the company has seen it that way.”

Gamesa becomes the third company to pin its offshore ambitions to the ports plan. Already Siemens and GE had unveiled proposals for turbine factories in the north east. Indeed, it was this huge financial commitment from the two electric giants that elevated the ports directive to the most crucial energy component of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

In the final couple of weeks leading up to last Wednesday’s Commons’ announcement by George Osborne, there were concerns that the ports plan would be cut. This would have had catastrophic consequences: Siemens and GE could have pulled out; other potential investors would have turned away from the UK; and ports in the north east, which would take the lead in any North Sea offshore boom, would not have had the infrastructure to handle the delivery of turbines.

So it was with a huge sigh of relief yesterday that the UK’s energy industry greeted David Cameron’s confirmation that the ports plan was going ahead.

The Prime Minister told the Confederation of British Industry: “It will help secure our energy supplies, protect our planet and the Carbon Trust says it could create 70,000 jobs.”

And the Carbon Trust was one of the first to applaud the decision. Its innovations director Benjamin Sykes said: “Offshore wind is a vital technology for the UK’s energy supply and investment in UK port facilities is critical to ensuring the UK generates maximum economic benefit from the dash for wind which will see thousands of turbines installed at sea.

“The industry offers the triple benefits of carbon reduction, energy security and new green industrial growth. The Prime Minister is right to highlight the sector’sjob creation potential which we believe could reach 70,000 by 2020 and grow to a quarter of a million by 2050.”

Renewable UK’s policy director Gordon Edge said yesterday: “This is a great day for the UK’s wind industry. We are set to realise the full potential of offshore wind both in terms of energy and job creation, and are happy that the government has shown vision and drive over this particular issue.”