GE Renewable Energy has started recruiting more than 200 personnel for its rotor blade plant in Cherbourg, France, as the OEM’s plans ramp up for commercial production of its highly anticipated 12MW Haliade-X offshore wind turbine.

The factory, which currently employs 120 people, is in the midst of laying up three of the record-setting 107-metre LM 107.0P blades, developed by GE-owned LM Wind Power, for installation on a prototype unit being built in the Port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and another two that will be tested in the UK and the US.

“This project creates enthusiasm as the factory is ramping-up, and we have witnessed a significant combination of efforts as we use the expertise from our facilities worldwide to train the people in Cherbourg,” said LM 107.0P project manager Lukasz Cejrowski.

“We are welcoming new people with diverse backgrounds, and at the same time, we are building a new blade of a size we have never achieved before.”

Erwan Le Floch, GE’s site director in Cherbourg, added: “A significant part of the employees at our site today are from the region of Normandy. We are proud to take part in the region’s social and economic development, and we are happy to create more jobs in the surrounding community this year.”

He noted that 60 of the new recruits have begun “intensive training” at the factory’s ‘Centre of Excellence’ , with mentorship from GE experts from company sites “worldwide”. Production supervisors, quality controllers, logistic and maintenance technicians, as well as apprentices’ positions at the Cherbourg plant are also being filled.

The nacelles for the Haliade-X are being manufactured nearby in Saint-Nazaire and towers at subcontractor GRI’s factory in Seville, Spain.

The US conglomerate is spending close to $400m developing the Haliade-X, which is designed to generate 67GWh of power a year using a 220-metre-diameter rotor turning a direct-drive and permanent-magnet-generator transmission system. By GE’s calculations a 750MW wind farm made up of 12MW Haliade-Xs would be able to power one million European homes.

The conception and construction of the Haliade-X platform – the launch of which Recharge revealed exclusively last year – has been founded on a cross-portfolio approach at GE that has involved “unprecedented collaboration” within the group.

Making a success of the Haliade-X is vital for GE, which has been struggling in the offshore space as its largest in-stock turbine, the 6MW Haliade 150 — which was inherited from its part-takeover of Alstom in 2015 — has been outclassed by MHI Vestas and Siemens Gamesa models that have upscaled now to 10MW.

In April, GE “agreed to exit” a preferred supplier deal with the 6MW model for 1GW of projects being developed off France by Eolien Maritime, with its German rival having since been signed to fill the order with 7MW machines.

Serial production of the Haliade-X is set to start in Cherbourg and Saint-Nazaire in 2021.