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Blame game played over wind farm plant shutdown  

ELEANOR HALL: There’s more bad news for the Victorian wind farm industry today.

Danish company Vestas has announced it’s closing its turbine blade manufacturing plant in the State’s west, with 130 employees to lose their jobs. The company is blaming the closure on a lack of support for the industry from the Victorian and Federal Governments.

But a neighbouring company says the industry is booming and that it is the company that is at fault.

Samantha Donovan has our report.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: It hasn’t been a good week for the wind farm industry in Victoria.

AGL Energy announced a $140-million wind farm in the State’s south-east won’t go ahead because it wasn’t financially viable. Now Danish company Vestas is closing its blade manufacturing plant in the State’s south-west.

In a statement, Vestas says it’s “regrettably compelled to close down the factory at the end of the year because it isn’t big enough to ensure satisfactory profitability, and the market outlook for Australia makes it impossible to expand the facility”.

Vestas Asia Pacific’s Senior Vice President Jorn Hammer told The World Today that Federal and Victorian Government schemes aren’t doing enough to support wind farms and as a result, the total market size isn’t enough to support the factory. He says the situation would be improved if governments raised mandatory renewable energy targets.

And that call is backed by the Australian Wind Energy Association’s Dominique La Fontaine.

DOMINIQUE LA FONTAINE: Australia does not have a long-term investment incentive in place for renewable energy. The company, which is a global company, is looking at other countries where the market indeed is very strong. This includes the USA. They’ll be looking at directing that capital investment to countries where there are strong domestic markets – China, America, India, Canada, et cetera.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Coastal Guardians Group has been campaigning against wind farms. Spokesman Tim Le Roy says the problems of the wind farm industry should be shouldered by both the State and Federal Governments.

TIM LE ROY: The Bracks Government has given a $2 billion subsidy to this industry through its Victorian renewable energy target. If $2 billion is not enough to keep this blade factory open, how much money does this industry really need to be viable? You can’t keep blaming the Federal Government.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: But another company, Keppel Prince, says it’s not all doom and gloom for the industry. A neighbour of Vestas in western Victoria, it makes wind turbine towers.

General Manger Steve Garner says his business is booming and the wind generation industry has a bright future. He believes Vestas Portland’s problem lay with its product.

STEVE GARNER: I guess the long and short of it is the fact that this factory was set up for a 40 metre blade and today the 40 metre blade is not used as common as they might have thought it would of have been back in, what, two-and-a-half years ago when they set that up. Technology’s moving that rapidly that the size of the blades are getting much bigger.

We had all hoped that they, that Vestas would invest some more money and change the mould that they currently build from but they’ve decided the Australian market is just not big enough for them.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Steve Garner from the booming wind technology company, Keppel Prince, ending Samantha Donovan’s report.

Reporter: Samantha Donovan

abc.net.au

22 August 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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