Siemens makes major change to blade factory

Finbarr Dowling, Siemens project director
Finbarr Dowling, Siemens project director
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SIEMENS has announced a major change to its proposed wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Yorkshire with the development of a single site, which would increase production capacity by a third and allow it to export.

Europe’s largest engineering company said yesterday that it plans to build the blade factory alongside its wind turbine assembly and servicing facilities at Alexandra Dock in Hull.

Finbarr Dowling, project director for the Green port of Hull

Finbarr Dowling, project director for the Green port of Hull

The factory was previously due to be built in nearby Paull because of the size of building needed to produce, transport and store the blades, which are at least 75m long.

But a recent redesign means that the factory can now sit on a 15 per cent smaller footprint, which can now be accommodated at Alexandra Dock.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Finbarr Dowling, Siemens project director, said: “The wind turbine industry and manufacturing process is still in its infancy. There is nobody else producing this size of blade and originally we thought we would need a bigger factory. Since then, we have started making the blades in Denmark and by looking at our existing processes we have realised we can make the production more efficient through better use of space, investing in more capital equipment and putting additional people into the plant.”

Siemens insisted its £310m investment and commitment to create 1,000 direct jobs is unchanged and added that the change would allow it to “export blades beyond UK waters.”

The amended plans will allow for an increase in production from the initial proposal of 450 blades a year to 600. The company said the decision to revise plans is part of its ongoing desire to continue to make its processes and products as productive and cost effective as possible.

Mr Dowling said it was vital that the Yorkshire wind turbine industry became more cost effective.

“It is exactly this type of continuous improvement that will enable us to industrialise the manufacturing of offshore wind turbines,” he said. “This will lead to a reduction in the cost base of offshore wind and ensure that the industry, and in particular our new world class plant in Hull, will be competitive into the future.

“Work has already begun on Alexandra Dock, preparing the area for the building of our new facilities. This announcement underlines our long term commitment to the Humber region and the UK offshore wind industry.”

John Fitzgerald, director of landowner Associated British Ports Humber, added: “Siemens’ decision to consolidate their operations at Alexandra Dock is a progressive one in an industry which needs to maximise efficiency and reduce costs. Together with our land at Paull, ABP has plenty of capacity to accommodate further participants in the supply chain for offshore wind manufacturing.”

Production is due to start in 2016 with the first blades rolling off the site in 2017.

The announcement was welcomed by coun Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council. “I would like to thank Siemens for their continued commitment and confidence in Green Port Hull, it is the best investment decision they could have made.

“I am looking forward to working with Siemens to capitalise on Hull’s position and their investment at the dawn in this new industry.”