Eco-friendly manufacturing on a small island

Perhaps it is just me, but the name kind of gives it away. The Isle of Wight,

located just off the Southern coast of mainland Britain. Being a small island, it requires that virtually all manufactured items be transported by sea off the island, many transferred to road and rail freight from nearby Portsmouth and Southampton, or in to larger ships for onward distribution.

The development of an eco-energy plant on a location with difficult transportation issues would not seem to be a long thought out strategic location. Be that as it may, Vestas, a Danish business set up a wind turbine blade manufacturing unit on the island, Vestas Blades, together with a research and development facility.

Vestas deem that the Northern European market and in particular the UK wind turbine market is in such a poor state that it is no longer viable to produce the blades on the island and have decided to shut down the plant.

As a result of such a large employer closing down on the Island, the workers, supported by trades unions have been fighting to keep the factory open. As part of the protest about 25 workers became involved in a lock-in, which is now resulting in a legal battle by Vestas to force the sit-in to end.

While I may not be the greatest fan of trades unions and fail to get it that when a business decides to shut a unit, the employees deem that the business should stay open regardless of any financial losses being made by the business, I do however fully support the rights for people to demonstrate, so can kind of get my head around the sit-in.

What I don't understand is why this protest has brought Green demonstraters to the proceedings. So called eco-warriors have joined the demonstrations over the shut down, despite the fact that Vestas have indicated there is no market in Northern Europe and they are planning on expanding the US operation, whilst increasing the R&D facilities on the Island.

The Government, has offered to inject money in to the plant, but Vestas have made a commercial decision that the plant is not viable.

If the eco-warriors wish to protest about the issue, they need to look, not at Vestas, but the 'nimby' attitude across much of the UK. It is council planning and local residents committees who are stopping the development of wind farms, not companies like Vestas who are actively engaged in the business. The big energy companies make great noises about eco-friendly power generation, but do very little to force the issue, so perhaps a word in their ear may be more useful.

The eco-warriors should be supporting the development of the R&D facility in to wind power generation, not bemoaning the loss of a manufacturing plant located in an ill-conceived location.

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  • The Vestas site is next to the river Medina and the blades are transported by barge for the short distance across the Solent to Southampton docks, so in that sense it's probably more eco-friendly than making them inland and having to transport them by rail or road.

    But I agree it depends on where they're going to end up. Vestas were intending to upgrade the factory to make blades for the UK & Europe, but have now decided to close it. The blades that were being made there were mainly for the US market, I believe. Makes sense to keep the jobs and skills here, but stick to the original aim, I feel.

    There needs to be a change in attitudes, too, if it's going to be turned around. And in planning.

  • Thanks for adding some insight into the existing manufacturing plant market.

    I spent quite some time over in the Isle of Wight at one stage and can appreciate that the development of this significant manufacturing plant is of considerable local concern.

    My main area of concern, is that Green protesters are actually targetting, Vestas, who are one of the few players in the wind turbine industry.

    To retain the Vestas R&D facility on the Island, should be something the protesters laud. If a long term protest is set up by Greens, could well drive the intended investment in the R&D facility by Vestas to be relocated. Which would not only be of further damage to the Islands economy, but of potential harm to the indsutry as a whole.

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