Massive $1.5 Billion Wind Farm Planned for West Texas

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) — A consortium of Chinese and American companies announced plans Thursday for a $1.5 billion, 600-megawatt wind farm in West Texas.

The venture’s main companies include U.S. Renewable Energy Group, Texas-based Cielo Wind Power LP, China’s Shenyang Power Group and A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. The wind farm is to be located on 36,000 acres in West Texas, although the group did not specify the exact site of the project.

While construction for the wind farm is to be financed largely by Chinese investors, the consortium is hoping to attract $450 million in U.S. stimulus funding, equal to 30 percent of its capital costs, Walt Hornaday, chief executive officer of Cielo, told Austin’s American-Statesman newspaper. To qualify, the project must begin by 2010 and be complete by the end of 2012. Hornaday said the project is expected to start in March, with completion as early as March 2011.

“Thanks to the strong policy push and a recovering financing environment, wind projects in the U.S. are attracting developers and investors alike once again,” said Joe Stark, vice president of finance and business development at Cielo.

Although the 240 2.5-megawatt turbines for the wind farm are to be manufactured in China, technology from the United States and Europe will be used, including a turbine designed by German wind power manufacturer Fuhrlander AG and a gear box design by General Electric.

Yang Yazhou, mayor of the city in China where Shenyang is based, said the project “would demonstrate for the first time Chinese capital, manufacturing and engineering expertise exported to the U.S.,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Cielo officials said the project would create about 300 construction jobs and 30 permanent positions.

“This wind farm project came about thanks to the openness of the United States for investments in the field of renewable energy,” said John Lin, the chief operating officer of China’s Shenyang Power Group, The New York Times reports.

Announcement of the deal comes amid concerns over China’s protectionist policies on renewable energy manufacturing. Recently U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned that the United States could lose its competitive edge on renewable energy manufacturing to China.

Already, China exports 95 percent of its solar components to the United States and Europe, while foreign manufacturers of wind turbines have had difficulty gaining entry into the Chinese market. And when construction began on China’s first solar power plant earlier this year, 80 percent of the materials were required to be domestically manufactured.

But there appears to be some progress on the Chinese protectionist issue. Following his meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan Thursday, Chu announced that China had agreed to remove local content requirements on wind turbines.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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