Blades of glory set to bring wind bonanza to region

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Think big, then think bigger. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size of the world’s largest turbine blade.

At 75m long it is a little shorter than the wingspan of the largest passenger plane ever built - the A380 Airbus.

Jason Speed, who will be plant manager at the new Siemens blade factory in Hull, with his team next to a giant wind turbine blade. Picture: James Hardisty

Jason Speed, who will be plant manager at the new Siemens blade factory in Hull, with his team next to a giant wind turbine blade. Picture: James Hardisty

Inside the hot, humid and surprisingly quiet Siemens’ blade factory at Aalborg, in Denmark, workers from Hull have been learning the art of blade-building.

Absolute precision is needed as each fibreglass sheet is placed in position in a giant mould and any creases carefully smoothed out.

It is just one of the processes the Hull recruits will put into action when the city’s new blade factory goes live on September 1 - a £310m joint investment between Siemens and Associated British Ports.

The size of the blades is matched by the Siemens Hull team’s ambition to be a “world class” manufacturer.

And their enthusiasm has proved contagious.

So far more than 14,000 people have applied for just over 400 jobs, with 600 more to come. Around 90 per cent have come from the local area.

Steve Coolledge, 50, who previously worked for Oughtred & Harrison in Goole, was last in Aalborg when he was on exercise in the 1980s with the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own).

Steve has been in Aalborg since February training for his new role as Quality Group Lead. His son Harrison, 15, is now applying for an apprenticeship.

He said: “When I hit 50 I thought I would be there for the next 15 years so I applied thinking ‘what do you have to lose?’

“It turned out I didn’t have anything to lose but everything to gain.

“I think it will put Hull in the spotlight.

“I just wish other companies could be as enthusiastic as Siemens and recognise Hull as a place to bring investment.”

City born Ben Brooke, 30, previously a team coordinator at BAE at Brough, said: “There’s a bit of a buzz in Hull again.

“After the recession and losing a lot of manufacturing jobs, this is a breath of fresh air.”

Magda Kay, 32, is on extended training secondment with husband Nick - who she met at the University of Sheffield - and her toddler Isabelle.

Mr Kay gave up his job to look after Isabelle, while Magda trains up for her new role as lean specialist.

Mrs Kay said Siemens supporting the family to stay together at a time her daughter is so young - and the relaxed child-friendly city - had been a big help.

Preparations for the factory step up a gear in July when the Hull team takes over the Aalborg factory during its summer shutdown to make a number of blades which will then be shipped to the Humber for finishing.

The first “golden” blade - made entirely in Hull - destined for the Dudgeon wind farm off Cromer - will be ready by the end of the year.

Installation vessels will arrive at the port in January to pick up components - including three-storey high nacelles, shipped in from Denmark, which weigh nearly 400 tonnes and house the generating components.

There has been hopes that Siemens’ investment would be followed by a tower manufacturer joining a Hull “cluster.”

Despite efforts, so far this has not materialised and the towers and nacelles look set to be imported.