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Wind energy giant cuts 185 jobs in Colorado as demand tails off

Renewable energy manufacturer Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. is cutting 185 positions from its staff in Brighton as it discontinues one of its products made there and general demand falls.

The downsizing at its wind turbine and blade factories is scheduled be completed Jan. 17, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice the company filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Tuesday.

Vestas is a U.S. subsidiary of the Danish wind giant, which manufactures turbines for electricity-producing wind farms in North America at four plants in Colorado, making the state its continental production hub.

The company is halting production of its V136 blades at the factory due to reduced demand for the product, though other blades will continue to be made there and the Brighton facility will host other kinds of work, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Chante Condit-Pottol, a U.S. spokeswoman for Vestas.

“This is a painful decision and it is always difficult to say goodbye to colleagues. In addition to the 60-days advance notice, Vestas is making every effort to support eligible colleagues in transitioning to other opportunities within Vestas,” the statement said.

Vestas’ growing services business of maintaining and optimizing turbines after they’re installed on customers’ wind farms is hiring hundreds of new employees, as is the company’s construction and tooling group, which will start using some space at the Brighton blades factory, she said.

Vestas hired more than 200 people to work in Brighton last year, part of a broader growth in its workforce statewide. Its headcount surpassed 3,700 people as the business set records for order volumes and demand for wind power crested in the United States.

Vestas’ two factories in Brighton make turbine blades and nacelles, which house the turbine’s gearbox and power generator assembly. A factory in Windsor makes turbine blades, and its Pueblo plant is the manufacturing site for steel turbine towers.

The company’s order intake in North and South Americas dropped off more than 60% in the first half of 2020, the company said in its earnings reports.

That was due to a combination of Covid-19 pandemic-related project delays and uncertainty among U.S. customers about timing wind farm projects to maximize federal tax credits, the company said.

The drop in orders prompted the closure of a composites material supplier’s factory in Windsor earlier this month. Hexcel Corp. (NYSE: HXL), based in Stamford Connecticut, closed its prepreg production facility in Windsor in early November due to the decline in demand from Vestas, its biggest local customer, a Hexcel spokeswoman told the Greeley Tribune last week.

Vestas’ slowdown follows a record-setting year for the company. Growth in Vestas’ U.S. business pushed the company’s deliveries to 5.8 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity in 2019. It had expected to continue the momentum in 2020, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Word of Vestas’ pending layoffs in Brighton comes eight days after state officials declared a Covid-19 virus outbreak at a Vestas plant there. The outbreak is believed to have infected 16 people, nine of them lab-conformed to have the illness, state data show.