GE pulls EUR340m plug on offshore plan

GE's plans to make a major play in offshore wind appear to be in limbo after the company confirmed its retreat from a EUR340 million strategy announced in 2010.

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In March 2010 GE announced it would invest EUR340 million in the expansion of its European offshore manufacturing and design facilities as part of its development of the GE 4.1-113 offshore turbine. The plan included a new EUR110 million manufacturing facility in the UK, the upgrade of engineering and research facilities in Germany, testing and demonstration facilities in Norway and design and demonstration facilities in Sweden.

In February GE put its UK manufacturing plans on hold. This followed comments in the Norwegian press last September by GE subsidiary ScanWind that GE was looking to move away from the country as "the offshore wind market in Norway has not developed as we had expected".

Last month, as GE announced that the 4.1-113 turbine had passed its initial testing in Sweden's Gothenburg harbour with over 99% reliability, GE's European general manager of renewable energy Stephan Ritter admitted there were still "no specific manufacturing plans".

This has been confirmed this month by GE, with a spokesman saying the firm was waiting to gauge market demand before it decided to proceed with any of the elements of its 2010 offshore strategy.

"GE remains committed to offshore wind," said the spokesman.

"The trial run of the 4.1-113 was successfully completed in Gothenburg, Sweden with 99% availability. Over the next several months, we will continue to validate the turbine. Each of the objectives listed (in the 2010 offshore strategy) is contingent on order pipeline. We will build where our customers have projects."

The 4.1-113 is a scaled-up version of ScanWind's 3.5MW turbine, which has operated for the past five years on Norway's coast. ScanWind was acquired by GE nearly three years ago.

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