GE announces major wind investment in Europe

Company's offshore wind turbine business expansion is expected to total $450 million in four countries by 2020.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
A GE offshore wind demonstration farm. GE

GE plans to spend about $450 million over the next 10 years to expand its wind turbine business in Europe, the company said Thursday.

The investment will finance wind turbine engineering, manufacturing, and service facilities in Germany, Norway, and Sweden by 2016, and a new manufacturing facility in the U.K. by 2020. The plans also include new facilities to demonstrate GE's 4-megawatt wind turbine.

Specifically, 75 million euros ($100 million) will go toward a research and development center in Norway, where there are plans under way to test GE's new 4-megawatt offshore wind turbines. GE already has ties to the Scandinavian wind industry. In September, GE acquired ScanWind for about $18.5 million. At the time of the acquisition, the manufacturer was already providing GE with the drive train components for some of its turbines. The drive train's design is unique because it does not use a gear box, something GE has argued provides more reliability and less maintenance. ScanWind already had facilities in Trondheim, Norway, and Karlstad, Sweden.

In Sweden, where GE also has offshore wind facilities, there will be a 50 million euro ($67 million) expansion, as well as a new technology demonstration wind farm in Gothenburg harbor.

GE plants to spend 105 million euros ($140 million) in Germany to expand an existing wind turbine manufacturing plant in Salzenbergen and build a new engineering center in Hamburg. In the U.K., GE says it plans to take advantage of the government's incentives to open a new wind turbine manufacturing plant as well as source suppliers for its turbine components such as blades and towers. The company estimates it will invest 110 million euros ($147 million) by 2020 in that project, and create about 2,000 U.K. jobs, including indirect supply chain jobs.

In a statement, GE pointed to European Wind Energy Association statistics that the EU offshore wind industry is expected to grow as much as 70 percent in 2010 due in large part to the European Union's aggressive energy agenda. The EU has a set a goal to produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020. The European Wind Energy Association predicts that if all existing plans for offshore wind farms are completed, at least 10 percent of all EU electricity will ultimately be produced by offshore wind power.

GE's wind interests are not restricted to reaping the recent European enthusiasm for wind energy. In December, GE announced it had signed a $1.4 billion contract to provide wind turbines and 10 years of maintenance services for the 845-megawatt wind farm, Shepherds Flat, near Arlington, Ore.