Michelin has announced plans to close its tyre factory in Ballymena, Co Antrim, with the loss of 860 jobs.
The company said it will "run down" the manufacturing plant by mid-2018 as part of a restructuring plan that will see investment in its facilities in Dundee and Stoke on Trent.The announcement comes a year after another major employer in Ballymena - the JTI Gallaher tobacco factory - announced plans to close its operation in the town by 2017, with the loss of around 870 jobs.
The factory in Ballymena opened in 1969.
Managers have been warning for a number of years that high-energy costs were making production increasingly unsustainable.
"Despite great efforts and progress being made in previous years, other European plants are still more competitive than Ballymena.
Back in 2013, the company installed a 4.6MW wind farm on site to try to cut energy costs :
Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder, said: “Building wind power on-site and supplying it directly to a factory not only cuts carbon emissions, but because you don’t need to transport the electricity via the grid – it cuts energy costs too.
“This is a way to make businesses more competitive and more environmentally sustainable at the same time.”
Onsite Wind Energy – pioneered by Ecotricity and known as ‘Merchant Wind’ – ensures that electricity is channelled direct to the end user, while any excess energy not used on site goes into the local Grid.
Wilton Crawford, Factory Manager at Michelin Ballymena, said: “The wind turbines are a welcome asset for Michelin in Ballymena, and will help alleviate the challenge of increased energy costs, particularly as energy prices in Northern Ireland far surpass those in Europe.”
Ecotricity’s two turbines at Michelin’s Dundee site have already produced well over 43 million units (kWh) of energy since being commissioned in 2006: that’s enough electricity to power over ten and a half thousand average homes, keep an iPad going for over 3 and a half million years, or drive an electric car (Nissan LEAF) around the equator over six thousand times.
However, as they have now learned, wind power is too intermittent to provide reliable power to a factory.