Thursday, 22 January 2009

Renewable energy in Wales

During questions to the First Minister on Tuesday I asked whether Wales should have it's own sector in manufacturing turbine blades for wind power. There is a need for green jobs in Wales to boost the economy, and Denmark and Germany employ thousands of people in those sectors. If we are to accomodate huge wind developments such as Gwynt y Môr then we should benefit as much as possible in terms of jobs. I also mentioned solar panel manufacturing. The Assembly Government has invested money to bring various companies to Wales in the past, and I will be pressing for similar investments to be made in the environmental sector so that we can forge a Green New Deal for Wales.

Leanne Wood: The One Wales Government has a commendable renewable energy strategy, which relies heavily on wind power. The Government has taken a strong lead on the promotion of wind power in Wales, but our industry is nowhere near as developed as that in countries such as Denmark and Germany. To my knowledge, there are no commercial wind turbine blade manufacturers in Wales, which means that they must be imported. What is the Welsh Assembly Government doing to encourage and support the growth of wind turbine manufacturing in Wales, and do you think that the expansion of turbine and, indeed, solar panel manufacturing could be a part of a green new deal that could help with the economic crisis?

The First Minister: You are right about wanting to encourage the supply chain for renewable energy in the UK, and we would give a particularly high rating to any such companies that wanted to invest in Wales, because you are right, certainly with regard to wind turbines. I do not know of a turbine manufacturer that makes the blades. However, we would expect quite a lot of work from the Gwynt y Môr plant, assuming that it is not judicially reviewed successfully in the remaining part of the window. There will be considerable knock-on effects in Wales from that investment, assuming that it proceeds.


W. Miller said...

It's very rare that I find myself agreeing with you, but on this you are spot on. However, there is scope to develop more than just the manufacture of blades - the plants in Denmark and Germany are at more than full capacity, so you need to hop on a plane and visit Siemens et al to entice them to windy Wales, build a plant near to the sea and start training people up to build turbines. This is not going to be a quick process - the building of turbines is very specialist, not your bog standard production line job, so it would take years to develop individuals that are up to the job.

Before this, though, you need to look at the road infrastructure, so that we can transport bigger machines to make full us of the wind on offer. The roads are at breaking point at the moment, and this limits the generation capacity to the size of machines that can be transported on our roads.

If you can achieve this, then you can make Wales the centre of excellence for wind energy in the UK.

But, as always, I won't hold my breath - I noted that Rhodri Morgan did not really answer your question!

BeyondGreen said...

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. Oil is finite. We are using oil globally at the rate of 2X faster than new oil is being discovered. We need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail ourselves out of our dependence on foreign oil. Jeff Wilson has a really good new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. He explores our uses of oil besides gasoline, our depletion, out reserves and stores as well as viable options to replace oil.Oil is finite, it will run out in the not too distant future. WE need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail America out of it's dependence on foreign oil. The historic high price of gas this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. WE should never allow others to have that much power over our economy again. I wish every member of congress would read this book too.

MH said...

I wouldn't worry too much about road infrastructure, WM. The move is definitely towards large offshore farms. Gwynt y Mor is almost certain to go ahead, but at 750MW it is actually small compared with what will happen in Round 3, which identifies potential sites with 4.4GW capacity north of Ynys Mon and 1.5GW in the Bristol Channel ... as well as seven other sites in Scottish and English waters.

So we are likely to be building big offshore farms for years to come, and we should start planning how we are going to have the capacity to build them. I fully agree with LW that we should be building them here in Wales ... and that is likely to involve offering financial incentives to existing manufacturers. Obviously this requires a port location, but in logistic terms building wind turbines somewhere on the Welsh coast and transporting them by barge is no different from building aircraft wings at Broughton and sending them to southern France. If we can build aircraft wings, there is no reason why we can't build turbine blades.