The separate decisions by GE and Siemens to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK came shortly after the chancellor of the exchequer announced funding of £60 million to develop wind manufacturing sites close to ports in his March budget.
The funding will be allocated through a competition. Bidders will have to demonstrate their sites have enough land available for manufacturing offshore turbines and access to adequate transport facilities.
Bids must be supported by local supply-chain firms and potential turbine manufacturers. The funding may be split between sites or awarded to just a single site, depending on the bids received.
The UK is already the world leader in offshore wind capacity. But turbine manufacturing has so far remained absent from UK shores. With the prospect of over 40GW of potential offshore wind to be developed, the government has been attempting to woo manufacturers to the UK.
RenewableUK has been calling for targeted government investment to allow the UK's privately owned ports to compete with their state or municipally owned continental rivals. Manufacturers have complained of the lack of UK locations with appropriate infrastructure that could support manufacturing.
The day after the chancellor's Budget boost for ports, GE announced it is to set up a UK factory to manufacture its 4MW direct-drive offshore turbine. It acquired the gearless technology when it bought Norwegian company ScanWind in 2009. The factory, together with UK-based application and service engineering resources for the offshore wind sector, will require up to EUR110 million of investment, says GE, and could deliver nearly 2,000 jobs by 2020.
Its UK plans are part of a package of new offshore wind investment in Europe, shared between research facilities in Norway, a design centre in Sweden and an engineering centre in Germany.
Siemens signed a memorandum of understanding with UK prime minister Gordon Brown to invest over £80 million in a turbine factory and create 700 jobs, with potential for expansion.
Siemens is currently the market leader in the UK's offshore wind sector with a 70% share of all wind farms built and under construction. The company says it is exploring sites on the east and north-east coasts; the exact location will depend on the results of the government's competition.
"The UK government has created a stable framework to attract inward investment in renewables and offshore wind power in particular," says Andreas J Goss, Siemens'
UK chief executive. "The competition for land development gives us confidence that the appropriate UK port infrastructure can be made available to support our production plans."
GE and Siemens' announcements follow Mitsubishi's decision to develop its 6MW offshore turbine technology in the UK and Clipper's ongoing development of its 10MW Britannia turbine in north-east England.