Danish prince and princess reign at groundbreaking

By Jason Kosena

BRIGHTON — Capping off a three-day spree of new job announcements, Gov. Bill Ritter joined Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in Brighton Wednesday at the official groundbreaking ceremony for two Vestas manufacturing plants. The plants, which will produce wind turbine components, are expected to employ 1,350 people when they open in 2010.

Gov. Bill Ritter, left, the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess of Denmark, center, and Brighton Mayor Jan Pawlowski laugh at a joke following the Vestas groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

Vestas, a Denmark-based company, opened a turbine plant in Windsor a year ago, and has since expanded the facility. Vestas also is in the process of building a plant in Pueblo. The company, which manufactures a bulk of the world’s wind turbines, towers and blades, operates plants around the world, but its only U.S. manufacturing facilities are in Colorado.

Ritter pointed to the wind turbine company as a perfect example of his vision for a “new energy economy” in Colorado.

“Vestas was very much one of the earliest companies that understood our vision in Colorado to build a new energy economy, and our first real success was the economic development with Vestas,” Ritter said during the ceremony. “The new energy economy is not just a slogan, but an idea. You can create a new energy future while creating jobs at the same time.”

A couple hundred people, including a cadre of local reporters and a horde of traveling press from Denmark, attended the ceremony.

After opening remarks by Vestas President Ole Borup Jakobsen, Crown Prince Frederik took the stage and spoke of his nation’s efforts, beginning in the 1980s, to become energy efficient and its expanding role as a world leader in renewable and clean energy production. He also spoke about the common sense approach to using wind for energy production.

“Being an enthusiastic and competitive sailor, I can find nothing more logical than harnessing the wind,” the Crown Prince said. “On my sailboat, I witness how the wind can propel the boat forward at a surprisingly fast speed. Windmills use an age-old principle, and — combined with high-tech nacelles that Vestas will build at this plant — will turn wind into electricity that powers almost every aspect of modern life.”

In the 1970s, Denmark, much like the United States, relied on foreign sources for crude oil to power its homes, businesses and economy. But after the world price spike in crude oil after the oil embargoes of the decade, Denmark began working toward a clean energy future, the Crown Prince said, with much success.

“Today we are among one of the most energy-efficient countries in the world,” he said. “Since 1980, our economy has grown by almost 80 percent while our energy consumption has remained stable. Denmark uses nearly half of the energy consumption per capita as the United States, but our lifestyle is very similar.”

Ritter, who spoke after the Crown Prince, called Denmark a model America should emulate.

“Denmark very much has a template of things that can be done to reconstruct a new energy future,” Ritter said.

The Vestas ceremony to highlight new jobs in Colorado was the third in as many days for Ritter, who has spent much of the legislative session focusing on the economy and new jobs.

On Monday, The Water Company of Pueblo, a high-tech water-purification firm, announced that it will be moving into a bigger facility and creating more than 100 new jobs in the process. On Tuesday, Ritter attended a ribbon-cutting and grand opening of Ascent Solar’s new international headquarters and manufacturing facility in Thornton, which is expected to bring 200 new jobs to the state in coming years.