Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Huge expansion for turbine plant

Welder in tower section
A welder works on tower sections of a wind turbine at the Skyton plant

The troubled Vestas wind turbine factory in Kintyre has been taken over in an expansion deal which could create hundreds of new jobs across the area.

Danish company Skykon aims to safeguard the 100 jobs at the plant and then increase the workforce to more than 300 over the next two years.

The deal was struck with help from a £9.7m government funding package.

Scottish ministers said it would create virtually full employment in a rural area hit by the economic downturn.

Fears for the future of the plant, at Machrihanish near Campbeltown, were raised after Vestas revealed it was to close the plant amid financial difficulties.

The impact of this investment will be truly transformational, not just for the Kintyre peninsula, but for all of Scotland
Alex Salmond
First Minister

First Minister Alex Salmond said the new deal would support local jobs and would see Scotland taking a huge leap forward in becoming a global leader in renewable energy.

The investment will see the plant, now trading as Welcon Towers, expand by nearly three times its current size to supply offshore and onshore wind turbines to the international renewables market.

Skykon is investing £35m at the site, which will be backed up by £9.2m of regional selective assistance money, as well as a £500,000 cash injection from economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Scottish Government said the expansion would also support 400 jobs while construction work was taking place.

Mr Salmond said: "The impact of this investment will be truly transformational, not just for the Kintyre peninsula but for all of Scotland.

"It creates high quality and skilled employment in the local area and gives Scotland a lead in the development of clean, green energy technology - putting our nation at the forefront of global developments."

Market growth

The first minister said the investment was particularly important amid the current economic crisis.

He added: "Argyll and Bute was shown recently to have the second-highest ratio of job seekers to vacancies in Scotland, with 31 claimants per job opportunity, and this has the potential to turn that around and create nearly full employment in the local area."

Skykon chief executive Jesper Ohlenschlaeger said Scotland was rapidly becoming Europe's "most positive" renewable wind power market.

"The market growth is currently in Scotland and the UK and Campbeltown offers a unique platform to build the leading UK tower supplier, delivering to the large wind turbine generators."

HIE chairman Willie Roe said: "This announcement will boost the economy of the whole area and we will continue to work with our partners to maximise its impact for the benefit of surrounding communities."

The Holyrood government said Scotland had the potential to generate up to 60GW of electricity from renewable sources, 10 times its peak demand.

Jason Ormiston, of the green energy trade body Scottish Renewables, said: "This is another strong signal that Scotland's wind industry has turned to face the recession square on and will deliver strong economic growth in the years ahead."

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