Northern Colorado economic development officials breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems (Copenhagen exchange: VWS) concluded months of negotiations with the announcement it will build its first U.S. wind turbine blade factory in Windsor’s Great Western Industrial Park, east of Fort Collins.
Construction of the $60 million factory will begin this spring, with production expected to start in early 2008. The plant should eventually have the capacity to produce 1,200 blades per year, while employing about 400 people.
The Greeley Tribune reported last week that worker salaries will average about $32,000 annually, and that the town of Windsor has agreed to waive $560,000 in development fees, plus 50 percent of its usual personal property taxes for 10 years.
A few years ago Vestas reportedly considered building the plant near Portland, Oregon — the site of its U.S. headquarters. But it settled on Colorado for a variety of reasons.
The Northern Colorado Business Report says the company was attracted here, among other reasons, because:
• It wanted to be close to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Wind Technology Center (located between Golden and Boulder, near the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant).
• The Windsor site offers rail access and a central U.S. location that’s amenable to shipping huge blades — measuring half the length of a football field — throughout North America.
• Colorado’s recent passage of Amendment 37, which will require large investments in wind farms and other renewable energy sources.
• An abundance of skilled aerospace employees, including some displaced from Lockheed Martin Corp.
Vestas said in November that it planned to open two plants in 2007 — one in the U.S. and the other in Spain. The Jutland-based company already operates plants in Denmark, Germany, India, Italy, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Australia and China.
On Tuesday the company reported a 2006 operating profit of $267.4 million on sales of $5.1 billion, a sales increase of 7.5 percent. The company reported booming customer demand, but said that component shortages continued to hamper production.
Analysts estimate that Vestas had 25% of the global wind turbine market last year, ahead of GE, Enercon and Gamesa Eolica, each with about 15%. The company reportedly lost market share during 2006 following the entry of Germany’s Siemens into the U.S. market.