Vestas Wind pulls R&D out of Louisville
Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S will move its operations in Louisville, Houston and Marlborough, Mass., to Brighton, where it's establishing a wind turbines R&D hub. The Danish turbine maker already has two factories in the Northern Colorado city.
In July 2010, Vestas signed a six-year lease for 48,000 square feet of space at 361 Centennial Parkway in Louisville, where it set up its Technology R&D Centre. The company said at the time it would employ about 75 to 100 workers in the first year with an average annual salary of $80,000.
"This consolidation represents a renewed commitment to Colorado and its renewable energy cluster," Vestas spokesman Andrew Longeteig said in an email.
Vestas employs about 100 R&D people, but it's unknown how many will end up in Brighton. The company will give those employees an opportunity to transfer to Brighton.
Longeteig added that the company had reduced its workforce, primarily in its R&D division, in the U.S. and Canada last week. The reduction amounted to about 1.5 percent of its total U.S. and Canada workforce.
There were no layoffs at its Brighton and Windsor factories as part of last week's workforce reduction.
Vestas is consolidating as part of a global effort to scale its research activities, focus on product development and be closer to its manufacturing operations. R&D efforts in Brighton will focus on increasing turbine efficiency and lowering energy costs.
The Brighton office will improve technology for current turbines and develop future wind power systems.
The move follows layoffs of 4 percent of its U.S. and Canada workforce at Vestas' Brighton and Pueblo factories. The layoffs, announced in August, amounted to about 120 employees.
Vestas said afterward in an earnings call that it planned to reduce its workforce by 1,400 more jobs in North America and elsewhere to save nearly $125 million. Altogether, Vestas will have laid off 3,700 people worldwide this year.
The company employs about 1,500 people in Colorado, but its factories here are not operating at full capacity.
Vestas has experienced its busiest year ever in the U.S. and Canada for building wind power plants.
It will install more than 20 projects in the U.S. and Canada this year and its factories are filling export orders for customers in Canada, Mexico and Central and South America.
"However, like everyone else in the wind industry in the U.S., we are experiencing a market slowdown based on the uncertainty of a (production tax credit) extension at the end of this year, as well as low natural gas prices," Longeteig said. "This market slowdown is affecting manufacturing."
Congress last month adjourned until after the election without renewing the wind energy production tax credit. Set to expire at the end of the year, the credit supports thousands of Colorado jobs tied to wind energy development projects.
Weld County Commission Chairman Sean Conway said the consolidation in Brighton was good news for Northern Colorado.
He acknowledged that Vestas faces challenges ahead, but he believes that Congress will renew the wind tax credit after the election.
"Essentially, there is a bipartisan group of folks, a coalition, that will vote to renew the wind energy tax credit," he said. "I believe it will be part of a step process where, percentage-wise, it phases out over a number of years."
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