Another factory for Australia -- Germans follow Danes

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A second wind energy manufacturing facility is planned for the Australian state of Victoria. In a deal brokered by the state government, Repower of Germany is to join forces with local wind companies to form the Victorian Wind Energy Network (VWEN) to produce turbine components. Repower, which will be competing with Vestas to set up the first wind turbine factory in Victoria, is a publicly traded and relatively new member of the industry, with under 3% of the global market for wind turbines. Vestas holds more than 30% of the market and dominates the Australian industry.

Under the agreement to set up VWEN, wind turbine blades and towers will be manufactured and assembled in Victoria for the world export market. The VWEN partners are project manager and operator Wind Power Pty, wind tower manufacturer Elliott Engineering, blade manufacturer Bolwell Corporation, and Repower in conjunction with assembly, maintenance and service business EDI Rail. They are forecasting the creation of 300 jobs within two years, mostly in provincial Victoria.

"The establishment of this network delivers, for the first time, the capacity within Victoria to supply and construct a complete wind farm from the ground up," comments Victoria's energy minister Theo Theophanous. "It combines the skills of three manufacturing businesses, each specialising in a particular area of wind energy construction, and a fourth company, Wind Power, that will act as project manager and provide opportunities through its own Victorian wind farms."

still on track

Wind Power Pty is currently building the 12 MW Wonthaggi wind farm in South Gippsland and pursuing permission for the 104 MW Bald Hills project, also in South Gippsland. If Bald Hills is approved, VWEN will be involved, adds Theophanous.

Vestas plans for a manufacturing facility in Victoria were initiated by NEG Micon before the recent merger of the two Danish companies. The establishment of the factory is part of an agreement to supply all the turbines for Pacific Hydro's 180 MW Portland Wind Energy Project (PWEP), which gained planning approval a year ago. Development of the manufacturing plant, to be part funded by the state government, was originally planned to begin following construction of the first phase of PWEP -- 30 MW at Yambuk. That project, however, has been delayed.

Although Yambuk has planning approval and work on site was to start by the end of last year, it still needs a separate development approval. Pacific Hydro says it hopes to receive this in June or July. The company's David Hastings adds: "The plant is still on track. The condition for local manufacturing is still there and we don't believe there are any changes to the planning regulations." Dan Hansen at Vestas adds: "We are waiting for the development plans that Pacific Hydro have to do."

In Denmark, former boss of NEG Micon and now second in command at Vestas, Torben Bjerre-Madsen, says an Australian factory is the company's first priority among the several under discussion for overseas locations, including possible factories in the United States, Canada and Brazil. He stresses that Vestas boss Svend Sigaard has publicly confirmed the intention to go ahead with the Australian facility. Vestas is planning to raise money on the stock market for a major capital increase before the summer. It already has an Australian assembly facility in Tasmania.

Once the Vestas plant is built, the next three stages of PWEP -- at Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson and Cape Sir William Grant -- will proceed. Pacific Hydro's Andrew Richards adds that these plant will be connected to a dedicated transmission line which will plug into the Portland aluminium smelter plant.

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