Areva, which has headquarters in Paris, said Monday it had reached a memorandum of understanding with Scotland's economic development agency to site an industrial facility near the Firth of Forth to manufacture its 5-megawatt turbines for offshore wind power projects.
The facility will add to a growing cluster of wind industry businesses in Eastern Scotland and has the potential to create 750 direct jobs in manufacturing wind turbines and blades, the company said.
"This demonstrates the group's commitment to contribute to the development of an ambitious offshore wind industry in the U.K.," Areva Chief Executive Luc Oursel said. "The Scottish site will complete our industrial plan to supply European offshore wind projects and will strongly position us to grasp opportunities in the extensive U.K. market."
The news came only six weeks after Areva and six other major electricity and nuclear technology firms threatened to cut back future investments amid widespread reports of rifts in Britain's coalition government over support for renewable energy, The Telegraph reported.
Areva, Siemens, Alstom UK, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Doosan, Gamesa and Vestas all warned British Energy Secretary Ed Davey in a letter obtained by the newspaper the lack of a resolution on whether to back ambitious 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets has "caused us to reassess the level of political risk in the U.K."
Reports indicate Davey, a Liberal Democrat, and Conservative Party Chancellor George Osborne are at odds on the targets and other renewable energy policies, causing uncertainty among potential wind power investors in the run-up to the introduction of a new energy bill.
Davey on Monday reacted with enthusiasm to Areva's decision to move forward with a major plant in Scotland.
"Offshore wind is a multibillion-pound opportunity ... which we must seize with both hands," he said. "Areva's announcement is the latest sign that the U.K. is set to reap the economic benefits of being at the forefront of low carbon energy."
British Prime Minister David Cameron also praised the announcement, saying it demonstrated the benefits of Scotland's union with England and Wales at a time when Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond has placed the issue of independence up for a referendum vote in 2014.
But the pro-independence Scottish National Party said Areva's decision showed why Holyrood's clear commitment to renewable energy is also needed in London.
"While Scotland is leading the way in securing renewables investment and the many jobs that go with them, it is clear that Westminster has a lot of catching up to do," SNP Member of Scottish Parliament Mike MacKenzie said. "They must bring their current infighting to an end before the uncertainty over future energy policy drives investors away from the U.K."
The Scottish port of Leith has been widely speculated as the likeliest spot for the 75-acre facility, which would be part of an industrial cluster that would also include providers of towers, transition pieces and foundations, the Norwegian energy news website Recharge.com reported.
"We are looking a number of 'site combinations' because it is important that we think about our manufacturing capacity in conjunction with the other sites that will be developed," Areva's Britain country manager Julian Brown told the website.
"Conceptually we absolutely buy into the model that we could share a location like the Firth of Forth with other turbine manufactures to the benefit of all us in terms of cost reduction," he added.
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