East Anglia: Turbine group Areva pledges to help create jobs

LEADING European wind turbine manufacturer Areva has insisted that it plans to bring jobs and wealth to the East of England, even though it has ruled out the region as the location for its new UK factory.

The French-based energy group, which said earlier this year it planned to locate its UK factory in Scotland or north-east England, said it wanted to work closely with the eastern region’s supply chain because of the offshore expertise and ports in prime locations near giant windfarms planned off Suffolk and Norfolk.

Around 60 delegates at the OrbisEnergy building in Lowestoft heard some of the finer points of Areva’s plans at a meet-the-buyer event organised by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), which was part-financed by the European Regional Development Programme.

They were told that Areva was actively looking for partners and suppliers in areas ranging from components and operations to support services such as monitoring, routine and unscheduled turbine maintenance, vessels, offshore accommodation and helicopters.

Andrew Fox, Areva Wind’s business relationships manager, said the company needed suppliers in place to help it win turbine manufacturing contracts in the UK.

Round 3 projects, including East Anglian Offshore Wind, took windfarms into a new era, further from shore with deeper water and stronger winds, he said – an arena where Areva’s pioneering work with 5megawatt medium-speed turbines gave it an edge over the competition.

However, although these were exciting times for the UK, he urged caution in view of continuing uncertainty from government and the electricity giants, and with most work unlikely to be under way until 2016.

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“Be ready with your investment but be careful. The timing must be right. Talk to us first as we may have inside knowledge,” he suggested

Joanna Law, UK services manager for Areva Wind, detailed the specific business which could go to local contractors. “But it is not just about local work opportunities; there are opportunities in Germany and elsewhere,” she added.

Simon Gray, EEEGR chief executive, said Areva’s approach created some fantastic opportunities for the region’s supply chain. Although there might be disappointment that it was not placing a factory in the region, the support service work would span at least the next 25 years, he said.