Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 09:50 UK

Fighting the wind farm 'Nimbys'

By Matt Treacy and Michael Stoddard
BBC News Online

The protests at Vestas lasted for 18 days
The protests at Vestas lasted for 18 days last summer

When more than 1,000 people on the south coast lost their jobs last year it was amid angry scenes when it emerged much of the work was moving abroad.

Wind energy firm Vestas made 593 people redundant when it closed its Isle of Wight factory and its operation in Southampton last August.

Meanwhile Ford axed about 500 jobs - half of its workforce - when it scaled back its Transit van production at its factory in Southampton.

To get the other side of the story, BBC Radio Solent took two former Ford and Vestas workers to visit the sites where their jobs have gone.

In the first part of BBC South's look at life after redundancy, former Vestas worker Penny Draper, 34, visited the firm's factory in Colorado.

She worked with her husband at the wind turbine blade factory in Newport on the Isle of Wight for just over three years.

The job losses sparked an 18-day sit-in protest which drew attention from across the world.

Bosses blamed a lack of demand for wind power in the UK and the "faceless Nimbys" ['not in my backyards'] who oppose the construction of wind turbines.

Vestas moved production of its wind turbine blades from the island to Colorado in the US as part of a £1bn investment - aided by federal funds.

BBC Radio Solent took Mrs Draper to the US factory in Windsor which opened in 2008.

'Wind energy-friendly'

Vestas said it could not make a current employee available to speak to but Mrs Draper managed to speak to former employee Tom Marek, who had been a director in the aftersales department.

He was trained on the Isle of Wight along with other American colleagues.

"For Vestas it was huge to add production capacity in the US because they cut their transportation costs," he said.

"Colorado has made a concerted effort to become wind energy-friendly.

Penny Draper at Vestas factory in US
Penny Draper said the US site was almost identical to the island factory

"Everybody else dipped their toe in the pool and Vestas really jumped in the pool with their complex.

"Most of it seems to be 'not in my backyard' in the UK.

"It seems places where you can put up wind farms where people will be amendable to the idea is where the wind resource isn't."

Will Young, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said there had been significant shifts in US opinion to renewable energy.

"Vestas tried to invest in the US before, but there had been systematic collapses in the market," he added.

"But with President Barack Obama's legislative campaign there has been a stronger demand and a stronger certainty that lots of wind farms will be built.

'Loss of community'

"Colorado sits in the middle of an enormous country with a potential large demand for wind farms, Isle of Wight sits on the edge of a country and does not have the strong domestic demands the Colorado plant can offer."

Rob Sauven, head of research and development at Vestas on the Isle of Wight, said: "At the end of the day we were manufacturing something on the island which was never used in the UK market.

"Transporting the blades is a very significant part of the costs.

Ed Miliband
In 10 years' time people will look back and think, 'gosh, there was a huge fuss about this idea of renewable energy and wind energy but actually it was the right thing to do'
Ed Miliband, Energy Minister

"We were always hoping for a home market to emerge, but the disappointing thing was that it never happened.

"Vestas are human-beings, I am really sad at the loss of a community of people that was doing such a fantastic job."

Following her journey to the US site, Mrs Draper said: "They are so pro-wind [in the US], it is something that everybody wants to buy into it.

"It is really clear that our governments in the UK, local councillors, the big chiefs are not pushing wind energy.

"To see that happen in the States is inspiring, why can't we have that here on the Isle of Wight?"

Ed Milliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has previously said he was confident that "Nimbyism" could be overcome.

He told BBC Radio 4 last year: "I actually think people will be persuaded over time and I suspect in 10 years' time people will look back and think, 'gosh, there was a huge fuss about this idea of renewable energy and wind energy but actually it was the right thing to do'."



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