BUSINESS leaders today hailed the “dawn of a new Leith” with a major new wind farm factory paving the way for a renewables revolution.
Wind farm manufacturers plan to build a production facility at Leith Docks, creating 800 skilled jobs and bringing an estimated £125 million of investment.
Edinburgh beat off competition from Hartlepool and Dundee to be announced as the preferred location for the wind turbine blade factory.
Spanish energy giant Gamesa aims to begin construction early next year and ramp up production of the 160-feet blades by mid-2014.
Leith docks will be used to ship the components to their destinations. The number of jobs will gradually increase to 800 once orders are allocated to the facility.
Business leaders said the deal was a huge boost to the city economy and would encourage more renewable energy firms to choose the Lothians as a base.
Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development convener, said the Gamesa announcement was “fantastic news” for Leith, Edinburgh, the Lothians and Scotland.
He said: “This is the opening of a new dawn for Leith. Now it’s down to Leith to take advantage of all the factors it has in its favour and build on this.”
Graham Birse, policy director at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said the arrival of Gamesa represented an opportunity to promote Edinburgh globally as a renewable energy hub.
He said: “A few weeks ago we were talking about the potential for Edinburgh to win the Green Investment Bank headquarters and start building a cluster of renewable energy projects in Leith.
“Now here we are with the GIB headquarters confirmed and this Gamesa investment with up to 800 jobs.
“Now we need to make sure we win more. What we are looking to do in Leith and Edinburgh is construct a renewable energy and offshore wind cluster of a significant scale which will employ many hundreds, if not thousands, of people.”
Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz, who has lobbied for the new venture to be based in Leith, said: “Building on the Green Investment Bank, this is very good news for Edinburgh.”
On top of the 800 jobs expected in the long term, he said there would be wider benefits to the renewables sector and the wider community.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This is terrific news. I look forward to the parties moving forward quickly to conclude the MoU [memorandum of understanding], as [the] announcement is a welcome boost to Leith and the wider Edinburgh and Lothians economy, with hundreds of quality engineering and other jobs coming to Scotland’s capital.”
Jorge Calvet, Gamesa chairman and CEO, said: “Selection of Leith as our preferred partner for the MoU aimed at establishing a UK manufacturing base is only a first stage, but an important one.