East Anglia: Investment hopes dealt a blow by turbine manufacturers at EEEGR conference

Andrew Fox from Areva Wind.

Andrew Fox from Areva Wind. - Credit: Archant

Top bosses today poured cold water on hopes that East Anglia could become a major hub for wind turbine manufacturing.

Leaders from three international energy companies said the region’s location and its infrastructure meant it was not best placed to provide a cost-effective wind turbine production plant compared to rival areas in Humberside or Scotland.

But the representatives from Areva, Alstom Wind, and RE Power, said they were attracted to the “brain power” in the Suffolk and Norfolk supply chain, which would be better used for delivering operation and maintenance services to giant wind farm projects off the east coast.

The claims came at the East of England Energy Group’s Powering the Future conference in Norwich, which featured key speeches on the energy from waste plant being built near Ipswich, the challenges facing energy security, and the role of fracking in the Southern North Sea.

But it was the final offshore wind panel discussion with Andrew Compton of Alstom Wind, Ranjit Mene of RE Power and Andrew Fox of Areva, which dealt a blow to the prospect of creating a wind turbine manufacturing plant in the region, with the potential to create a substantial number of new jobs.

Mr Fox, Areva’s business relationship manager UK, said the logisitcs of moving manufactured products from the east and north towards Scotland and Yorkshire was not easy, although the labour cost of building wind turbine blades might be competitive.

And Mr Mene, head of UK offshore sales at RE Power, said a major investment in port development at a location such as Great Yarmouth would be needed if investors were to begin to consider East Anglia.

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But Mr Compton, strategic account manager at Alstom Wind, said the east was better placed for delivering operation and maintenance services. He said: “Operation and maintenance should not be seen as a second fix manufacturing. We see this as being a huge value stream for us. But building wind turbines in the east? I don’t think so.”