More layoffs at Vestas US blade plants

Vestas on Thursday carried out a new round of production line worker layoffs at rotor blade factories in Brighton and Windsor, Colorado, a move taken to “adjust capacity to market demand for wind turbine orders in 2013.”

The workforce reduction represents about 10% of Vestas’ 1,100 manufacturing employees in the state, according to the Danish company. Employment peaked at 1,700 several years ago.

“We are disappointed that we must lay off many of our highly skilled employees,” the company says in a statement.

All remaining hourly production workers at the two blade factories will move back to 40-hour work weeks effective 25 February, after a temporary reduction to 32 late last year. Both plants had earlier experienced redundancies, as turbine orders declined amid industry uncertainty over whether Congress would extend the wind production tax credit (PTC), which it eventually did.

Vestas, like other turbine vendors, had warned that late timing of the PTC renewal would result in a significant reduction in 2013 wind capacity installations relative to the record number last year. This is due to the lead time between when an order is placed and when a project begins.

"However, the US market will nonetheless be stronger as a result of the PTC extension. We are confident that orders will be placed and delivered from our US factories,” the statement says.

Vestas did not estimate 2013 US turbine deliveries. It notes that the PTC extension did not affect the company’s projection that it will deliver between 4GW and 5GW worldwide this year.

Today’s move does not impact employees at a nacelle factory in Brighton, Colorado, or a tower plant in Pueblo, Colorado. On 16 January, Vestas announced an agreement to supply towers for third parties for North America wind power projects. It plans to add more than 100 jobs in Pueblo by the end of his quarter. It has capacity to produce 1,000 towers per year there.

Several US-based tower manufacturers left the business last year citing lack of 2013 orders, unstable federal support for wind energy and increased cyclical nature of the US industry.

With the domestic market in a lull period, Vestas has also been pursing export business in Canada and Latin America to soak up the idle production capacity at its plants.

“Vestas has adopted a flexible business strategy in the US and Canada during a period of changing market dynamics in the wind industry,” it says, adding that it will continue to scale up or down depending on business needs and market demands.