Vestas cuts turbine blade workers but adds tower jobs in Colo.

Source: Special to E&E • Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vestas Wind Systems A/S is cutting 110 jobs at its two blade factories in Colorado and adding 100 workers at another plant that makes wind turbine towers in the same state.

The Danish wind turbine maker is reducing its workforce at factories in Windsor and Brighton, while adding jobs in Pueblo. Before the announcement, Vestas employed about 1,100 workers in Colorado.

“Vestas regrets to have to lay off highly skilled employees, yet the dismissals are necessary in order to adjust manufacturing capacity to the expected market demand for wind turbines in 2013,” the company said in a statement. It added that jobs at a fourth plant in Colorado, a facility that makes nacelles in Brighton, will not be affected.

Vestas invested $1.2 billion in four Colorado factories only to see the market drop off sharply as the production tax credit, which pays 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable electricity, was renewed only at the last minute at the end of 2012.

“Due to the time it takes from when an order is placed to when the project begins, Vestas knew the late timing of the PTC-extension would result in a significant reduction in 2013 installations relative to previous years,” the company said, adding that it remains committed to manufacturing wind turbines in the United States, both for domestic projects and for export to Canada and Latin America.

The company expects to deliver 4 to 5 gigawatts of total wind turbines worldwide this year, or about half the total production capacity at all its plants combined. The improved prospects of the tower factory in Colorado are due to an agreement the company signed last month to supply towers to unnamed third parties for wind projects in North America.

The company is reducing its global workforce from 22,700 at the end of 2011 to 16,000 by the end of this year. Some reductions will come from selling facilities and others from vacant positions not being filled, but most will come from layoffs as the company grapples with overcapacity.

In a separate announcement, Vestas said it would more than double its chairman’s salary for last year to €270,818 ($355,340) from €130,818 and the vice chairman’s salary to €177,212 from €87,212. It said the increase was necessary “due to the unexpected and extensive workload imposed on the chairmanship in 2012.”

Vestas lost €963 million last year and €166 million in 2011.