Firm “close” to making wind farm decision

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BOSSES at a Spanish offshore firm are poised to make an announcement over a multi-million pound factory which could bring 1,000 jobs to Hartlepool.

Madrid-based Gamesa will choose either Hartlepool or Dundee to build a UK base to construct wind turbines, and with all other contenders ruled out it is now a two-horse race between the two ports.

It had been expected that the firm would make a decision by the end of last month, and while that has since passed, Gamesa bosses told the Hartlepool Mail that an announcement will be coming “soon”.

Officials in Hartlepool are remaining tight-lipped over discussing the town’s chances of landing the lucrative deal. But north of the border, pressure is mounting on Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond to do more to try and secure the contract for Dundee.

The Mail understands Hartlepool’s proposals to try and lure Gamesa to the town have impressed the Spaniards, and there could be a decision reached by the end of this month.

As well as up to 1,000 jobs at the new plant, it is estimated that a further 800 positions could be created from spin-offs further down the supply chain.

Once the decision is made, work will start on the factory next year with the aim of producing the first turbines by 2013.

Detailed analysis of both the port area in Hartlepool and the Scottish city are being carried out by Gamesa’s team, with requests into officials from both locations for more information.

A spokeswoman for Gamesa said: “We continue to analyse future industrial implementation in UK based on different variables.‬

“In this context, Gamesa will take the decision on a finalist port for exclusive negotiations soon.‬

“In this moment, the company keeps in discussion and exchange of information with two ports, Hartlepool and Dundee. It means that we are working with the same strategy and in the same direction. Analysing information, assess different variables, and requesting further information from the ports.‬

“Gamesa’s investment in UK offshore plan – around 150 million euros – requires a deep analysis of the site.‬

“In this sense, the characteristics of port infrastructure and the area will be important, but the key will be included in how close are the projects of our customers, supply chain development, possible expansion of infrastructure, ease of logistics work, and so on.‬

“Gamesa estimates that the construction and development of its offshore wind business in the UK will create over 1,000 direct jobs and another 800 indirect jobs at local suppliers.”

Gamesa, which has 15 years experience in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of wind turbines, has 30 factories across the world in Spain, China, the United States of America, India and Brazil.

The Spanish firm has close to 8,000 employees across the world.

While Hartlepool MP Iain Wright and Mayor Stuart Drummond have both pledged to do anything they can to help bring Gamesa to town, Scotland’s First Minister Mr Salmond has been accused of complacency in his efforts to secure the deal for Dundee.

Jenny Marra, Labour MSP for North East Scotland, said: “Alex Salmond has gone into radio silence and is showing a lot of complacency about these jobs at a time when one in four of our young people in Scotland are unemployed.

“Dundee is in a two-horse race with Hartlepool and I’d have thought he’d be prioritising the fight for these jobs.

“Time is marching on, and the First Minister should be using his good relationship with Gamesa to bring these jobs to Scotland.”

Earlier this year, Energy minister Charles Hendry backed Hartlepool to become a hub for green energy during a whistle-stop tour of firms including Heerema Hartlepool, PD Ports and JDR Cable Systems.

At the time, Mr Hendry said: “Hartlepool has the potential to be a central part of the renewable energy infrastructure in this country.”