The historic former Ford Motors factory in Geelong will be re-established as a manufacturing hub after Danish energy giant Vestas unveiled plans to build wind turbines on the site.
Vestas has partnered with local manufacturer Marand Precision Engineering to build the turbines for Tilt Renewables’ Dundonnell wind farm and Global Power Generation’s Berrybank wind farm, being constructed nearby.
These new wind farms would provide enough energy to power all of Ballarat, Warrnambool and Geelong, Tilt said on Thursday.
It is the first time in more than a decade that wind turbines will be built in Australia.
About 20 staff will be directly employed at the $3.5 million factory, which will cover more than 3000 square metres and build four-megawatt drivetrains and hubs for wind turbines. Vestas said it would also train hundreds of locals in wind turbine maintenance.
“Vestas is committed to building new skills in the local workforce in Geelong, and with our wind turbine component assembly and testing capability, we are helping build on Geelong’s background as a heavy manufacturing hub and use that to establish a renewable energy hub,” Vestas Asia-Pacific president Clive Turton said.
Marand, which has also worked on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, said the agreement was its first step into the renewable energy space.
“This partnership will greatly help us expand our capability in this growing field. We are particularly proud to be able to carry out this work in the former Ford Geelong facility,” Marand chief executive Rohan Stocker said.
Marand said 10 workers would be sent to Denmark to learn about wind turbine technology and would then lead the manufacturing of the first Vestas components at the former Ford Motors stamping plant.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the new factory was bringing together Victoria’s renewable power ambitions with its manufacturing history.
“Victoria is the renewable energy capital of our nation and thanks to this new facility, we’re putting Geelong at the centre of it – this is great for jobs and great for Geelong,” Mr Andrews said.
Ford, Australia’s first car maker, closed its sprawling factories in Melbourne and Geelong in 2016, amid the national shutdown of the automotive manufacturing sector, which left thousands of workers out of well-paid jobs and triggered many thousands more redundancies across the supply chain.
Geelong business leaders on Thursday said basing the new turbine manufacturing centre at the historic Ford stamping plant would send a “positive message” to the local community, which had been hit hard by the closure.
“It’s a great symbiosis between the traditional manufacturing sector of the past with the industries of the future,” said Bernadette Uzelac, of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, which represents nearly 1000 businesses in the region.
“The importance of the Ford manufacturing site for so many years is something that will continue.”
Ms Uzelac said the long-term benefits and flow-on effects to the community could be “significant”.
“Manufacturing is not dead – manufacturing is still alive and very much at the heart of Geelong and Geelong’s future,” she said.
“Renewable energy, advanced manufacturing … these are the areas that are going to take centre stage.”
Auto giant Ford remains the owner of the land in Geelong, and is leasing out part of the site.
The head of Tilt Renewables, which is relying on the factory to help build its $560 million Dundonnell wind farm, said the initiative was a boost for the entire region.
“As one of the largest beneficiaries of the new Turbine Assembly Facility, we are very pleased to contribute to the creation of new manufacturing jobs, as well as training opportunities for people in the City of Geelong and south-west Victoria,” Tilt Renewables chief executive Deion Campbell said.
The factory is expected to start operations soon, so that the first wind turbines can begin generating power by early 2020.
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