GE has 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 – signalling the company’s commitment to the 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 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 4-megawatt 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 4-megawatt wind turbine will feature GE’s innovative 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.

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. Key elements of GE’s European expansion announcement include:

Norway
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 4-megawatt 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.

Sweden
In Sweden, GE will also expand its current offshore wind facilitites by developing a Conceptual and Systems Design Centre in Karlstad, Sweden. A technology demonstration unit is planned to be installed in Gothenburg harbour, and GE also will join the Chalmers Wind Energy Centre 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.

Germany
A new engineering centre 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.

United Kingdom
GE plans to establish its offshore wind turbine manufacturing in the UK. 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 UK and could ultimately deliver nearly 2000 jobs by 2020. This investment will follow the successful outcome of the UK government’s infrastructure competition, aimed at supporting the development of renewable energy in the UK.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Miliband said: “We’re creating the right conditions and incentives to maximise the potential of our wind resource. Now we have another leading player entering the offshore wind market as a result. GE’s investment will create new jobs and help the supply chain flourish, reinforcing the UK as the destination for offshore wind investment.”

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