NW Evening Mail, 16 March 2010
THE unknown quantity in the windfarm invasion of Barrow is how much benefit the town and its firms will achieve.
Some people think the town is going to reap the benefits in terms of jobs and income for the next two to four years – and at a lower level for 20 years after that.
Others, including jobs-creation agency Furness Enterprise, remain cautious about potential benefit to South Cumbria.
The truth is no-one is actually sure who is right.
The giant £1bn Walney Offshore Windfarm is due to be completed next year for Dong Energy of Denmark and its junior UK partner Scottish and Southern Energy.
And there could be about 25 to 30 fulltime jobs in the Barrow-based team operations and maintenance team who will look after 102 turbines.
Those jobs are likely to be a mix of Danes, Europeans and British.
Dong and Siemens are likely to need local subcontractors from time to time, including boat operators.
Vattenfall, the Swedish owners of the second wind farm being built off Walney this year and next, the Ormonde, said earlier this year that as many as 55 people could be in their post build team in Barrow Island.
Vattenfall’s 30 five megawatt turbines will be the largest to go to sea so far compared to Dong’s 3.6 megawatts of power.
Part of the Ormonde team will be here just for a time to see how the massive turbines perform in the hostile environment of the Irish Sea.
At last week’s official marquee launch at the docks of the Walney Offshore Windfarm, project officials from Siemens which makes the turbines ordered by Dong, said there could be some truth in the belief that most of the profits and benefits were going elsewhere.
But they also believed that as the cluster of wind farms off the Furness coast grows so will local ancillary and service industries and local jobs.
As well as full-time fitters and maintainers, the wind farms will need a range of contractors and services like boat transfers to take people out to the turbines and back, taxis and hotels for stopovers.
Barrow docks has already seen substantial improvements caused by the Dong contract with 18 lost acres reclaimed, surfaced in crushed stone and illuminated by 10 giant light towers, and a newly concreted quay area in Ramsden Dock. Other benefits are to follow, including pontoons along the Walney Channel for smaller transfer vessels.
Port operator ABP has taken on two more people and more jobs could follow.
Those invited to the windfarm launch at the docks heard it was more than seven years ago that Dong first became interested in building the Walney Windfarm.
Work on installing foundations starts next month and the first completed turbine will be powered up by October.
The docks will be substantially busier.
The second phase, which involves the last 51 turbines being erected, will see two vessels working on foundations and another two on turbine installation.
At the height two turbines will be installed per week in the summer and one per week in the winter.
The 600 tonne steel foundation piles and the 300 tonne transition pieces – which fix on top of them and on which the turbines then stand – are being shipped from Germany to Barrow.
The turbines and towers are being shipped from Denmark to Mostyn in South Wales while cabling is coming from Italy.
Experts say it is the fastest build of its kind and a challenge for all to meet with the Irish Sea weather.
Dong boss for all renewables construction Jens Bonefeld told the official opening: “Discussion about climate change is very high on the agenda. This is true for all countries and all responsible countries have tried to meet goals.”
Mr Bonefeld said Walney would help achieve those goals.
But he hoped the community would see the benefits of having the windfarm on their doorsteps – which would make up for any downsides.
Mr Bonefeld said: “I hope you can develop a good relationship with the staff who are going to be part of this for another 20 years.”
Mr Bonefeld says of local content: “We have just built Gunfleet Sands (a windfarm off Clacton on the South Coast) and we had very good involvement from the local small businesses, so it was a good experience. Based on this we are sure that we will have the same good experience here.”
He said the project would be worked on by a mixture of Danish, British and European people.
Mr Bonefeld said: “There will be many good opportunities to create contacts.”
From a local perspective, the construction period will give some local activity concerning supplies and resources.
He said the wind park would create stable employment on a lower level for the next 20 years, servicing and management the wind farm.
He said there was “some truth in the statement” that the work and the profits go to foreign firms.
But Mr Bonefeld, 60, said: “There will be opportunities to increase the British content.”
He believes the Danes got a world lead in wind farms by launching them – onshore at first – as community cooperatives owned by lots of people, a move which stopped widespread resistance and increased their popularity.
He said the first permanent maintenance staff will be hired later this year in time for the first turbine rotors starting to turn in October. They would also be recruiting management and office people.
Barrow Borough Council leader, councillor Jack Richardson said the Walney Offshore Windfarm project would boost Barrow’s claim to be a central part of the Energy Coast in Cumbria.
Cllr Richardson said: “It means the area will be highlighted in national terms and that can only be for the good of the town.”
The new Waterfront Business Park being developed next to the docks on Barrow Island means there is the opportunity for offshore wind related companies to move into the area.