World's Top Turbine Firm Plans NW Plantby Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, June 5, 2002
PORTLAND -- The world's largest wind turbine maker plans to build its first American factory in Oregon, just a short jaunt from the breezy fields of Eastern Washington.
The Denmark-based Vestas plant would employ as many as 1,000 workers and produce 300 turbines a year at its proposed Portland factory. Operations could start as soon as next summer.
"It really is a big deal," said Angus Duncan of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. "It's a major recognition of this region's potential."
There were plenty of reasons to locate in Portland. The company likes the region's pool of qualified workers, quality of life and Oregon's environmental consciousness.
But as much as anything else, it likes the Northwest market for wind power.
"That has been a significant factor," said Henrik Norremark, president of Vestas American Wind Technology.
The company also looked at California and Texas.
"There are other parts of the country that have better wind but not a better market," said Randall Swisher, director of the American Wind Energy Association.
Until now, most wind turbines have been shipped from overseas. Vestas will become just the second major wind turbine manufacturer in the United States.
Vestas is no stranger to the Northwest. It manufactured the turbines for the massive Stateline wind project southwest of Walla Walla.
With production facilities in Denmark, Germany, India and Italy, Vestas turbines produce a quarter of the world's wind power.
Some wonder whether the plant will be built if a federal wind farm subsidy is not extended or if the BPA decides not to buy power from four proposed projects it is considering.
But Norremark said the only thing standing in the way is the building permits.
"Providing we can get that done, it's a go," he said.
That has left industry backers giddy at the ramifications for the Northwest, which in the past four years has seen an explosion of interest in wind farms.
"The whole industry is interested in the Northwest," said Heather Rhoads-Weaver, director of Northwest Seed, an organization that recently completed an effort to map out the region's best wind sites. "It's a sign the industry is maturing."
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