Vestas is ending its wind turbine blades manufacturing in Brighton and will lay off hundreds of workers in the state as it shifts to lower production and more wind farm servicing.
The Danish company, which made Colorado’s Front Range its wind power manufacturing hub for North America, plans to lay off 450 from its wind turbine manufacturing across its three plants in northern Colorado and its steel tower plant in Pueblo.
Some layoffs in Brighton will take place in 60 days, while some layoffs in southern Colorado were effective immediately, Vestas said.
The layoffs are the second wave of job cuts the Vestas-American Wind Technology division has announced in four months. It reflects slowing U.S. wind farm orders due to declining federal tax breaks and the broader slowdown in the domestic economy.
That decline follows a peak in U.S. wind farm orders and expansion at Vestas plants in Colorado.
“The wind energy industry in [the] USA has grown tremendously in recent years, which has increased our factories’ capacity and expanded our service business,” said Tommy Rahbek Nielsen, COO of Vestas. “With a larger fleet under service and lower demand in the near-term, we are therefore consolidating our setup in Colorado to ensure we can cater for our service business’ needs, and are structured in the right way to ramp up efficiently once wind turbine demand requires us to.”
The company’s North American wind turbine orders dropped 37.6% in 2020 when compared to 2019. Its deliveries jumped 53% last year as wind farm owners raced to establish projects before federal tax breaks shrank at the year’s end.
Vestas will consolidate Northern Colorado blade manufacturing to its existing plant in Windsor, ending blade production in Brighton and accounting for 280 of the positions being cut. The company will continue making nacelles, the gear boxes for wind turbines, in Brighton, though that production will be smaller than before, Vestas said.
About 170 jobs are being cut in shrinking the Brighton nacelles production and the Pueblo towers output.
The company plans to make the Brighton site its continental headquarters for its tooling business, which is currently spread across six U.S. locations.
It will offer jobs to 150 of the laid-off Colorado staff in the new tooling business, and Vestas will try to make jobs available elsewhere in the company to as many others being laid off as possible, the company said.
Its Colorado manufacturing workforce is believed to be about 3,500 after laying off 185 from its Brighton blades plant late last year.
The growing number of wind farms in operation has created an increased demand for turbine servicing and improving wind-farm operations, Vestas says.
Last week, during the Vestas conference call about its 2020 financial results, CEO Henrik Andersen said the company is still bullish on its U.S. business overall. The election of U.S. President Joe Biden suggests an emphasis on renewable energy to meet ambitious climate goals, and that bodes well for wind power demand, he said.
“We believe it will be a lower level of activity,” he said, “but there will be things both onshore and offshore going forward.”
Vestas acquired full ownership of its global offshore wind turbine production last year. The company sees wind farms purchasing offshore growing faster than before.
Its Colorado plants make only onshore wind turbines.
Vestas employs about 4,500 people in the U.S. after the consolidation. That’s out of a 29,000-person global workforce.
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