In the north of England, the wind industry is booming

The entrance to the port of Grimsby, in the east of England, is a reminder of the extent to which the place has been decimated since the 1970s. Gutted buildings succeed abandoned houses, creating a ghostly impression barely erased by a few rare fish preparation factories. What was once the world’s premier fishing port has never recovered from the “cod war” against Iceland, then European fishing quotas.

The 2019 opening of the maintenance center of Orsted, a Danish company that operates offshore wind turbines, came like a breath of fresh air. Five hundred people work in this modern building, located at the edge of the water. From here, technicians go to sea for up to two weeks in a row, to maintain the turbines. The closest are an hour and a half by boat, the furthest more than five hours away. In the building, a gym, a cinema and clothes drying machines await them on their return. The control room, which oversees the operation of the wind turbines, is also on site.

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On the other side of the mouth of the Humber, a forty-five minute drive away, the Siemens Gamesa factory, based in Hull since 2017, builds huge eighty-meter wind turbine blades: a thousand quality jobs have been created. To celebrate the opening, the town hall, as part of a festival, had secretly placed a blade in the city center overnight. “We had managed to get it through narrowly, by removing streetlights”says Alex Codd, in charge of development at the town hall.

“Pride Regained”

Hull, 260,000 inhabitants, no longer even has the ghost of a fishing port, the fish market having closed permanently in the early 2000s. But the wind industry brings hope. “The city regains pride, explains Mr. Codd. We went from the city where the fish were dead to the one where the wind turbine exploded. »

In the United Kingdom, this sector is beginning to give birth to a real industry. Some 7,000 jobs have been created, according to the UK Bureau of Statistics. Compared to oil and gas, which employs 30,000 people directly, this is still low. But these new jobs are settling in regions in decline, which had little reason to celebrate in recent decades.

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It took eight years between the first discussions and the inauguration of the factory to convince Siemens Gamesa to come to Hull. The town hall highlighted its perfect location, close to potential sites for future offshore wind turbines, and the presence of a port ready to receive the behemoths. In 2012, Siemens therefore signed an agreement in principle. But the British government sowed panic by publishing a White Paper in which the financial support system for wind power seemed to be questioned. Alan Johnson, the local MP, an influential former Labor minister, stepped up to the plate. For two years, the time to clarify the situation, nothing progressed.

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