New foundry in Methil, Fife could make Scotland world leader in supply of turbine parts
The plan centres around a proposal for a foundry next to Methil docks in Fife to use "game-changing new technology" to become the only one of its kind in Europe and would create 150 jobs. The plant would make the cast-metal components for nacelles – the "cockpit" parts of turbines that generate the electricity.
The company behind the proposal is a London-based start-up, RGR Foundry, which is a front for Chinese-based British financier turned turbine supplier Antos Glogowski and Austria-based technical specialist, Dieter Rabus.
If RGR gets planning permission for the foundry, which it hopes will happen by the end of June, SSE and BiFab are set to invest along with various other backers from outside Scotland that have already committed. The intention is that this plant would start casting components in the latter months of next year.
With RGR in negotiations with landowner Forth Ports about leasing the site, the vision is that these components would be combined with other turbine parts for supplying wind farm developers in the UK and overseas.
BiFab, which is 15%-owned by SSE, already makes the steel foundations ("jackets") and is said to be looking at moving into towers. There are hopes that a blade manufacturer might set up in the area in due course. Samsung has already announced that it will build a 7MW demonstrator offshore wind turbine at Methil, in a tie-in with Scottish-owned gearbox manufacturer David Brown.
Glogowski told the Sunday Herald that RGR had developed a technology that would enable a Scottish plant to compete with China, whose two specialist foundries are the only ones in the world that would be capable of shipping the components for the 5MW-plus turbines that will become commonplace over the next three years.
He said: "The plan is to build a very large foundry with modern European technology that's semi-automated and specialised to provide the castings for the offshore wind industry that is competitive with Chinese castings but of higher quality.
"We have a special way to manage the casting which reduces the amount of sand that's needed by something like 80% and that speeds up the process. It is also semi-automated, which means we need about 150 people against a Chinese plant that would require about 450 people. We have been testing it in several European locations for several years and we think it is a game changer."
Glogowski would not say what the plant would cost except that it would be in the "hundreds of millions of pounds". He said it would be capable of producing 45,000 tonnes of components for about 250 turbines each year, or about one-third of the UK requirement to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets. In his view, Methil is well placed to supply turbine companies such as Siemens in Hull and Gamesa in Edinburgh.
Assuming the plant goes ahead, he said that the order book was already full for the next five years. All being well, the plan would be to extend the plant further down the line.
"It is about putting Scotland on the map as possibly the world supplier for offshore wind turbines, so we're working very hard on the complete value chain, trying to evolve just-in-time delivery," he said.
"Most of the funding is in place. And the rest is tentatively offered subject to us getting the planning permission."
Glogowski, whose Chinese company ADL Supplies provides components for BiFab's jackets, thought that planning permission would be relatively straightforward, since the plant would run on electricity and would create almost no pollution or noise.
Gordon Edge, director of policy at RenewableUK, said that no other company had committed to the "really significant investment" required to build this kind of specialist foundry in the UK.
He said: "You would not want to be shipping really large bits of metal all the way from China. Our members have been flagging up this issue to us for a while."
John Robertson, chief executive of BiFab, said: "It's something the industry really needs. There's nothing wrong with RGR's thinking. We're sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens."
A spokeswoman for SSE, which develops wind farms, said: "We are aware of the planning application but it's at a very early stage. Securing the supply chain for offshore wind is always something that we are interested in."
Other Scottish jobs news
- LLOYDS Banking Group has announced 55 new apprenticeships in Glasgow.
- £8m contracts to boost staff numbers at Skene from Glenrothes by 10%
- 400 new Customer Service jobs for Scotland's Central Belt
- Aberdein Considine in Edinburgh creating 15 jobs
- Subsea service firm to expand Aberdeen base creating new jobs
- s1jobs Recruitment Awards 2013 Winners
- MORE than 150 jobs are to be created in a new tax processing centre in Glasgow
- US software firm SAS to create 94 jobs in Scotland
- Daktari Diagnostics will create 126 jobs at a new factory in Inverness
- A £1.6MILLION project has been launched which will create up to 50 new jobs in Clydebank.