Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2014

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RENEWABLE ENERGY:

Planned wind-turbine plant gathers gust of momentum

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Zeng Wei, party secretary of the Shenyang Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, gives an interview Tuesday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony announcing the launch of the final development phase of a wind turbine plant project involving A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Cielo Wind Services and the Greenspun Corporation.

Wind-turbine plant project launch

Chinese and U.S. dignitaries and business leaders gather for the project launch of a wind-turbine assembly plant in Nevada.

Wind-turbine plant launch ceremony

American and Chinese businessmen and dignitaries toast each other Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony announcing the launch of the final development phase of a wind turbine plant project involving A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Cielo Wind Services and the Greenspun Corporation. Launch slideshow »

An international manufacturer of wind turbines has launched plans to build a plant in Southern Nevada, establishing its first manufacturing effort in the United States.

The commitment by A-Power Energy Generation Systems, based in Shenyang, China, was marked in a gathering at UNLV on Tuesday among Chinese and U.S. government leaders and business partners from both nations.

Almost as if it were a prop for the event, a breeze rustled bright red decorations and blew scripts off podiums at the outdoor event, attended by about 100 people, including high-ranking Chinese government official Zeng Wei, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and top executives of the four major business partners that put the deal together.

While some details about the 320,000-square-foot manufacturing plant haven’t been finalized — including selection of a site for the facility — the partners said they were far enough along to publicly mark the alliance. The plant is expected to provide 1,000 jobs.

Officials did say, however, that 50,000 tons of U.S.-manufactured steel would be used to build the plant, allaying fears that foreign interests would benefit most from the project.

A wind farm in Texas will be the first energy development project to receive turbines from the Southern Nevada plant, according to officials.

A-Power Chairman and CEO Jinxiang Lu said his company is seeking other opportunities with partners U.S. Renewable Energy Group and Cielo Wind. It’s possible that the plant could expand to include the manufacture of solar panels and materials for other renewable projects, Lu said.

Zeng Wei, party secretary of the Shenyang Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, told the Sun through an interpreter that construction of the Southern Nevada plant is an important first step toward developing renewable energy solutions for both the United States and China.

“A good start is important to success and I think we have a really good beginning,” said Wei, a direct liaison to Beijing governing leaders who rarely give interviews to journalists.

“The high attention this has received from China and the U.S. government makes me firmly believe there will be more strategic cooperation in the not-too-distant future, especially in the area of further expansion of this project,” he said.

“I also noticed that Mr. Lu has been very busy in the last few days looking for other partners in other states,” he said, referencing other potential wind farm projects for which the Southern Nevada plant would provide materials.

Wei and others at the event were quick to credit Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his role in helping to bring the partners together and using his influence to steer the plant to Nevada.

“We’re at the focal center of the renewable energy revolution,” Salazar said. “It’s happening here in Nevada because of the great leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid. He is a tireless worker for the creation of jobs here in Nevada.”

Salazar also applauded the use of American materials to build the plant.

“The message should ring loud and clear across all America that there are 50,000 tons of U.S. steel that will go into the construction of this project and that the turbines that will be produced from this facility right from the outset, which is a very significant amount of power to power American homes. We’re honored that you are investing $1.5 billion in the state of Nevada,” Salazar said.

Reid’s Deputy Chief of Staff David Krone attended the event representing Nevada’s senior senator.

In a statement, Reid said: “I commend A-Power, their partners and supporters for moving forward with a project that will put more than 1,000 Nevadans back to work and help our nation in its effort to achieve energy independence. I encouraged A-Power to come to Nevada because our tax-friendly business environment and abundance of clean energy resources make our state the perfect place for them to do business. If we play our cards right, this project will be just one of many more to come.”

It was no coincidence that Tuesday’s event was held at UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Plaza, which is powered by solar energy “and where we have been threatened all morning by the power of the wind,” said Brian Greenspun, chairman and CEO of The Greenspun Corporation. It is the parent company of land developer American Nevada Company, which is part of the consortium involved in the project. (The Greenspun Corporation also owns the Las Vegas Sun.)

“When historians 50 years from now look at Las Vegas and the Nevada-Chinese new power city, they will conclude that the seeds of that great endeavor were planted here today,” he said.

State officials are confident that the initial Chinese investment in Nevada will lead to more in the future.

“We’ve been attracting a lot of interest in Chinese investors, primarily in renewable energy and natural resources, our mining industry,” said Al DiStefano, director of global business development for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development in a telephone interview.

“This is the one that finally broke the ice,” he said. “A-Power is the second-largest renewable energy manufacturer in China and for them to pick Nevada for manufacturing in the U.S., that’s significant ... This project is a groundbreaker.”