activism energy

Why is the UK’s only turbine factory closing?

The UK has more wind capacity than any other country in Europe. The government plans to produce 30% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. You would think that it’s the perfect time to invest in wind power, or to re-train for a career in wind power.

So why is the UK’s only wind turbine factory closing?

The Vestas turbine factory on the Isle of Wight has been in trouble for a couple of months, but hit the news again this week as workers occupied the premises in protest.

According to Vestas, a Danish parent company, there isn’t sufficient demand to keep the plant open. Wind power just moves too slow to make it viable. Building wind turbines is “extremely time-consuming and extremely complicated” in the UK, the chief executive Ditlev Engel told the Guardian. “In the UK, nimbyism is a huge challenge.”

As of December 2008, there was 6,854 MW of wind capacity in the planning system, enough to triple current capacity. It can take years to get planning permission for wind projects, and cost millions. It still costs millions when your planning permission is rejected, which obviously make investors reluctant to commit. In 2007, 62% of applications were rejected, according to the British Wind Energy Association.

The proposed Planning Bill should speed up planning processes, but it may be too late to save the UK’s only turbine factory. Considering the government has bailed out the car industry, who are climate enemies, perhaps they should step in and shore up this crucial ally. That’s what the 500 workers at the factory are demanding, and I agree.

You can show your support for the workers by joining the Facebook campaign here, or attending their protest tonight at the Department for Energy and Climate Change:

Wednesday 22nd, 6pm to 7pm
at No 3 Whitehall Place (off Whitehall)

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