Controversial wind farm to build U.S. turbine plant

TEXAS - Companies planning a controversial wind farm in Texas that would seek millions in federal stimulus funds said that they'd build a U.S. plant to make wind turbines and employ 1,000 people.

The news follows criticism that the farm planned to use Chinese-made turbines and that too many federal stimulus dollars have gone to foreign-owned wind firms.

The companies didn't say when the plant – to be one of the biggest in the U.S. for wind turbines – would be built or whether it would supply turbines to the Texas farm.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has asked the Obama administration to block federal stimulus funds from going to the Texas farm unless it uses U.S.-made turbines. Schumer says stimulus funds should create jobs in the U.S., not in China.

In September, the U.S. government announced almost $1 billion in stimulus funds for 14 U.S. wind farms. Eighty-eight percent of the funds went to subsidiaries of foreign firms developing the farms, industry data show. Four of the farms use turbines from U.S.-based companies General Electric and Clipper Windpower. The rest use turbines made by companies with global headquarters in Spain, Japan, India and Germany, data from the American Wind Energy Association show.

The stimulus funds for renewable energy are part of the government's $787 billion economic stimulus package. For the wind farms, cash grants replace the incentive companies previously received through tax credits.

Schumer raised opposition to the wind grants earlier this month after the West Texas farm was announced and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University reported on the heavy flow of stimulus dollars to foreign wind firms.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a letter to Schumer, defended the awards. He said the companies that supplied turbines to the funded farms had U.S. plants and that the farms are in the U.S., creating local installation jobs and tax revenue. He cited industry statistics that 53% of the value of turbine parts installed under the program were American-made.

The wind turbine plant is to be built by the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a U.S.-based private-equity firm, and A-Power Energy Generation Systems, a Chinese turbine maker. The plant will provide enough turbines to power 330,000 homes, the companies said in a release.

Cielo Wind Power, a Texas-based wind-power developer, is not part of the plant deal but is involved in the proposed Texas farm. Cielo President Walt Hornaday has said that the $1.5 billion wind farm, to be one of the biggest in the U.S., won't proceed without stimulus funds.


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