GE Announces Major European Offshore Wind Expansion & Investment in Four Countries

March 25, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

General Electric (GE) announced plans to invest approximately €340 million to develop or expand its wind turbine manufacturing, engineering and service facilities in four European countries – the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and Germany – which GE says signals its deep commitment to the promising European offshore wind sector.

"Offshore wind will play a vital role in meeting the growing global demand for cleaner, renewable energy and has a bright future here in Europe," said Ferdinando (Nani) Beccalli-Falco, President and CEO of GE International. "These investments will position us to help develop Europe’s vast, untapped offshore wind resources, while also creating new jobs for both GE and our suppliers."

At the core of GE’s European expansion plans is the development of GE’s next generation wind turbine, a 4MW machine designed specifically for offshore deployment. As the largest wind turbine in GE’s fleet, it will incorporate advanced drive train and control technologies gained through GE’s acquisition of ScanWind. The 4MW wind turbine will feature GE’s technology that eliminates the need for gearboxes. This technology is already being demonstrated at a test site in Hundhammerfjellet, Norway, where the first ScanWind direct drive unit has been operating for more than five years.

"GE’s proven reliability on more than 13,500 land units coupled with ScanWind’s proven offshore, gearless design enables us to provide our customers the reliable solutions necessary for the offshore wind industry," said Victor Abate, Vice President – Renewable Energy for GE Power & Water. "These announcements lay the foundation for us to begin scaling our offshore business, technology and supply chain locally in Europe where we see the greatest growth opportunity."

The European Wind Energy Association expects that Europe’s offshore wind sector will grow more than 70% in 2010, with continued growth forecast over the next several years. If all of the offshore wind projects currently in development are completed, they could produce 10% of the European Union’s total electricity while avoiding 200 million tons of CO2 emissions each year. Overall, offshore wind is expected to make a major contribution in helping the European Union reach its goal to have 20% of its energy produced from renewable resources by the year 2020.

GE will add to its existing presence in Norway with plans to create a new Offshore Technology Development Center in Oslo and will expand its advanced demonstration unit production and service facilities in Verdal. GE also has joined the Nowitech Research Center in Norway to participate in joint research projects on offshore wind topics. Norway is the planned site for the testing and demonstration of the first 4MW wind turbines offshore. This will result in approximately 100 jobs and a €75 million investment related to GE’s offshore wind business in Norway by 2016.

In Sweden, GE also will expand its current offshore wind facilities by developing a Conceptual and Systems Design Center in Karlstad, Sweden. A technology demonstration unit is planned to be installed in Gothenburg harbor, and GE also will join the Chalmers Wind Energy Center in Gothenburg. This will result in approximately 50 jobs and a €50 million investment related to GE’s offshore wind business in Sweden by 2016.

A new engineering center in Hamburg will feature product development, application engineering and advanced technology. GE also plans to expand its resources at its existing wind turbine manufacturing facility in Salzbergen, as well as the GE Global Research Center in Munich. This will result in approximately 100 jobs and a €105 million investment related to GE’s offshore wind business in Germany by 2016.

GE plans to establish its offshore wind turbine manufacturing in the United Kingdom. In addition, GE will locate application and service engineering resources in the country and will bring partners and suppliers of towers, blades, nacelles and other offshore wind components to the manufacturing facility. The plan will result in up to €110 million investment related to GE’s offshore wind business in the United Kingdom and could ultimately deliver nearly 2,000 jobs by 2020. This investment will follow the successful outcome of the U.K. government’s infrastructure competition, aimed at supporting the development of renewable energy in the United Kingdom.