Vestas Blades America will consolidate production of its wind turbine blades into its Windsor facility and lay off hundreds of workers across Colorado amid a drop in demand for wind power.
The consolidation involves laying off about 280 workers at Vestas’ Brighton blade factory and another 170 at its Pueblo towers and Brighton nacelles factories.
About 150 of those workers will be offered jobs in Windsor if they are interested in relocating, said Stacy Miller, the town’s economic development director.
Tommy Rahbek Nielsen, Vestas chief operating officer, said the wind energy industry in the U.S. has grown tremendously, which caused an expansion in recent years.
Now, with lower demand in the near-term, the company is “consolidating our setup in Colorado to ensure we can cater for our service business’ needs, and are structured in the right way to ramp up efficiently once wind turbine demand requires us to.”
Following Tuesday’s announcement, Vestas employs more than 29,000 people worldwide, 4,500 in the U.S. and more than 2,000 in Windsor.
Vestas, which opened in Windsor in 2008, has gone through three major expansions in facilities, equipment and jobs, including a multimillion-dollar equipment upgrade “to make the factory more viable to the new lines of blades being produced,” Miller said.
In 2018, Windsor provided a 50% personal property tax rebate for Vestas that helped create 150 jobs and retained 1,103, according to the town’s economic development office.
In 2019-20, the town, Weld County and state office of Economic Development and International Trade provided incentives and personal property tax rebates to help Vestas upgrade the Windsor facility and equipment.
Windsor provided another 50% personal property tax rebate as part of the $85 million building and equipment upgrades. That helped retain 105 full-time and 200 part-time jobs.
At the time, the economic development staff concluded the expansion and upgrades would allow Vestas to keep up with current production demands and remain competitive within the company’s worldwide operational structure. “Currently, other Vestas blade manufacturing locations have a competitive financial advantage over Colorado,” wrote Jill Young, economic development specialist, in a memo to the Windsor Town Board and mayor.
“I don’t know if that’s what saved the jobs,” Miller said. “But I have a sneaky suspicion it might have played a role. They wanted to upgrade that facility to have equipment that was more relevant to the type of blades manufactured today.”
The consolidation and layoffs follow an announcement in August that production of V136 blades would cease at the factory due to reduced demand for that variant.
As part of the restructuring, all blades production will move to Windsor and the Brighton Blades site will be repurposed into a Northern American headquarters for the Global Tooling business, consolidating from six smaller locations, the company said.
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.