Vestas wind turbine assembly plant opens at old Ford factory in Victoria

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Wind turbines assembled on Australian soil for first time in more than 10 years, with launch of the Vestas Renewable Energy Hub in former centre for car manufacturing.

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Wind turbines are being assembled on Australian soil for the first time in more than 10 years, with the launch of the Vestas Renewable Energy Hub at a former Ford Motor factory in Victoria.

The new facility was officially opened on Thursday in Victoria’s former centre for car manufacturing, Geelong, with state Premier Daniel Andrews and minister for energy Lily D’Ambrosio in attendance.

Representatives of Vestas and Marand with Premier Andrews and minister D’Ambrosio at the time of the VREH announcement in February 2019.

Initially, the plant will be used to assemble drive trains and hubs – and test other components – destined for Victoria’s 336MW Dundonnell and 180MW Berrybank wind farms, two projects supported in their development via the state government’s reverse auction scheme.

In a statement on Thursday, the government said more than 20 workers were already at work assembling 100 turbine hubs and 50 drive trains for those projects, both of which have local content commitments as part of the state government’s Victorian Industry Participation Policy.

The Hub is also expected to invest $3.5 million in a range of initiatives to grow the local wind energy industry, including a Service, Logistics and Training Centre in nearby Grovedale that will service turbines and house major turbine components.

Hundreds of local staff will also be trained in wind turbine maintenance through a partnership with Federation University, and a research partnership with Deakin University will look at further development of carbon fibre wind turbine blades.

For Vestas – which last year notched up more than 1GW of turbine orders around Australia, including the contract to supply the 184MW Warradarge Wind Farm in Western Australia – the idea of setting up operations in Australia has obviously become a no-brainer.

But this has certainly not always been the case. Just over a decade ago, Vestas was forced to close two manufacturing plants it had opened in Australia in 2005, after the then Coalition government rejected an independent recommendation to extend the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.

“We had to close both of them – because of the lack of certainty,” then CEO of Vestas Wind Systems Ditlev Engel told RenewEconomy in an interview in 2013.

This time around, Vestas has partnered with Geelong-based Marand Precision Engineering to establish the VREH and provide a local workforce.

“The production line at the old Ford factory is humming again, creating local jobs and building our energy future,” said Andrews from the Hub on Thursday.

“It’s the first-time wind turbines have been assembled in Australia in more than a decade and they’re being built right here in Geelong – supporting local workers, businesses and the community.”

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