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Nordex Opens AR Wind Turbine Plant

Nordex USA has officially opened its flagship wind turbine manufacturing plant in the U.S. in Jonesboro AR. Representing a $40 million investment, the 150,000 square foot plant is one of the most modern production facilities in the wind industry, optimized for lean flow and reduced lead times for customers. It positions Nordex as a domestic manufacturer of the highest caliber in one of the biggest wind energy markets in the world.

“There’s no way around it,” said Thomas Richterich, CEO of parent company Nordex SE. “To play in the US wind market, you need a Made-in-the-USA strategy. Our turbines are some of the most powerful and reliable on the global market, and now we can get them to US wind farms quickly and cost-effectively.”

Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas senior senator Blanche Lincoln joined with state and community leaders for the event, following a tour of the plant.

The total planned investment for the site is $100 million, with further manufacturing capacity to be added in a second phase in line with market conditions. The Nordex plant will build nacelles for 2.5 megawatt turbines that belong to Nordex’s new third generation efficiency class – the Gamma generation. Production began earlier this month, and the first assembled nacelle was on display. Nacelles house the engine and other key turbine components and sit high atop the turbine tower.

The assembly time for a nacelle is about two weeks, and the Nordex plant has the capacity to produce 300 per year. One Nordex turbine can power about 700 American homes.

“Energy is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today, including the United States,” said Ralf Sigrist, President and CEO of Nordex USA. “These turbines will help America secure a new domestic energy supply without compromising national security or the environment.”

Since breaking ground on the plant last September, Nordex has hired 54 employees, about 80% locals, including the first production crew. Job functions range from production assembly, process engineering, supply chain management, facilities management, training, quality assurance, safety, administration and management.

Nordex plans to grow its ranks to nearly 70 in Jonesboro and 175 nationally by the end of 2010. It has the potential to create a total of 700 jobs in Jonesboro and 1,000 nationally over the next four years, not including indirect jobs created by suppliers and service providers. Earlier this year, steel components manufacturer Beckmann Volmer announced it would build a $10 million factory and employ 500 in neighboring Osceola to supply parts to Nordex. Part of Nordex’s strategy is to make its supply chain 80% domestic within the next nine months.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who has led Arkansas’s bid to become a wind turbine manufacturing hub, addressed the audience: “The clean-energy sector has great potential for creating high-quality jobs in Arkansas and across the United States,” he said. “Nordex has recognized that Arkansas has the right location and workforce to produce American-made components for the North American wind industry.”

The Jonesboro production crew is undergoing extensive practical training. The team spent 10 weeks at Nordex’s German factory in Rostock, and now their German counterparts have set up residence in Jonesboro for four months to work side-by-side with the crew on their home turf. Jonesboro crew members spoke about their experiences so far at the ceremony.

“When Nordex first announced they were coming to Jonesboro two years ago,” said Brad Scott, “I started submitting resumes. I pursued the opportunity for two years and am thrilled to be a part of the team today.”

Nordex has also built a 10,000 square foot training academy on site, and has a partnership in place with the Arkansas State University to teach “mechatronic” skills, which combine mechanical and electrical know-how and are specific to wind-turbine manufacturing. “We’re making a long-term investment in our workforce,” said Joe Brenner, VP of Production. “These are not just jobs, they are careers.”

“Arkansas has become a success story for the wind industry,” said Ralf Sigrist in a keynote address that stressed the huge potential for wind in the US – home to the best wind resources in the world.

“Now, we have to water what we’ve planted. We have to ensure that the industry we have all worked so hard to establish takes firm root in the national market via strong, sound renewable energy policies. Our success is your success,” he continued, “and with rising demand for energy around the corner, the only thing that can get in our way is short-sightedness.”

Nordex has both completed and planned installations in several states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maryland and Colorado. The Arkansas facility will fill all future orders, shipping turbines to wind farms around the country.

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