Wind Turbine Plant Starts Production in Arkansas

Nordex $100-million project calls for a second line to produce for rotor blades

Wind turbine manufacturer Nordex USA Inc. has started production at its new plant in Jonesboro, Ark., having completed the project in July after nine months of construction. The plant was announced last year with a budget of $40-million, but part of a staged development that would eventually cost about $100 million.

The new operation is producing nacelles — the large housings that contain an engine and other critical turbine components atop a windmill tower. A second stage of development is planned at some future date to assemble rotor blades for windmills.

Nordex indicated last year that the Jonesboro plant would produce one of the world’s largest classes of wind turbines, the 2.5-MW N90 and N100. Nordex was the first manufacturer to build turbines of this size, which it has been doing since 2000.

“Two years ago, we announced our intention to make Nordex wind turbines in the U.S., for the U.S.,” stated Nordex USA Inc. president and CEO Ralf Sigrist. “Today we’re putting our hands to the metal and doing it.” One notable domestic contract for the company is from Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, which late last year ordered eight N100 wind turbines for installation at the Shirley Wind Farm project near Green Bay. The 20-megawatt farm is forecast to produce almost 64 million kW/h/year of electricity, and Nordex would provide maintenance and technical operation under a 10-year service contract.

The German company has 150 U.S. employees, 42 at the Jonesboro plant, but an earlier report indicated total employment there would be up to 700 skilled workers and others by 2014. Nordex also indicates it plans to hire up to 1,000 nationwide over four to five years.

Workers for the Arkansas plant were trained for 10 weeks at Nordex’s plant in Rostock, Germany. Training will continue during the early phase of production, with workers from the German plant in place at Jonesboro for several months.

“There’s no way to do this without international exchange,” stated vice president for production Joe Brenner. “Wind energy has tremendous potential in the U.S., but it’s about more than just creating green jobs. We have to transfer expertise in order to build a wind industry workforce. Nordex is investing in such a workforce and bringing the needed skills to America.”

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