Chinese turbines powered by west Texas winds are sparking a debate over whether “Buy American” rules should be imposed on renewable-energy investments backed by the U.S. government.
A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd., based in Shenyang, China, will supply turbines to a joint venture planning to build a $1.5 billion wind farm using equipment made in China. The group, which includes two U.S. partners, says it may seek financial aid from the Obama administration because the project will create at least 1,000 American jobs.
Lawmakers led by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, say such assistance amounts to subsidizing green jobs outside the country. They want to slap made-in-America requirements on renewable-energy initiatives aided by the U.S., like those already faced by highway and water-treatment projects helped by President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
“Congress is feeling pressure to make sure they won’t be held accountable for green jobs going overseas,” said Kevin Book, a managing director for Clearview Energy Partners LLC, a Washington-based policy research firm.
Buy-American restrictions may be added to climate legislation that will be introduced in the Senate as early as next week, Book said.
Producers of renewable-energy equipment, led by General Electric Co., the biggest U.S. maker of wind turbines, say such restrictions would hurt their ability to compete in a global clean-energy market that relies on parts from many countries. Buy-American provisions may cause other nations to retaliate by curbing their use of U.S. products, shrinking domestic job creation tied to exports, GE says.
The wind industry will create 20,000 U.S. jobs in the next decade and would generate more if the U.S. adopted clear policies and incentives for clean energy, such as requiring the use of power generated from renewable sources, said Steve Bolze, head of GE’s power and water unit.
“What the U.S. needs, which Europe, China and other countries have, is stable, long-term policy,” Bolze said in an interview.
Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, the world’s No. 2 maker of wind turbines after Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S, is planning to invest 340 million euros ($462 million) in developing and expanding wind-turbine operations in the U.K., Germany, Norway and Sweden, creating a total of more than 2,000 jobs in those countries, Bolze said.
“We need to be very, very careful about any kinds of protectionist measures” in clean energy, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in an April 8 interview.
The Texas project’s U.S. partners announced the 600- megawatt wind farm in a statement on Oct. 29. A-Power was “designated as the wind-turbine supplier for this high-profile project,” John Lin, the company’s chief operating officer, said in the statement.
The U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a Washington-based private- equity firm, and closely held Cielo Wind Power LP of Austin, Texas, are in the joint venture with Shenyang Power Group, a Chinese energy alliance that has A-Power as its biggest investor.
Schumer criticized the use of Chinese-made turbines at the time, and last month joined Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation that would make the Texas wind farm and projects like it that are dependent on foreign manufacturing ineligible for stimulus aid....MORE