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Feb 102010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

While Washington leaders debate whether the stimulus money has done enough for the economy, Wisconsin has latched onto money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to kick start a wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Wisconsin Rapids, a small city in the center of the state. The new factory is expected to be the most advanced in North America and employ more than 600 people.

The Energy Composites Corp. (ECC) facility will be built with the help of $238 million in municipal tax-free bonds from a pool of money (the state’s Recovery Zone Facility pool) created with federal stimulus dollars.

While the financial arrangements took several steps, including new legislation introduced by Sen. Julie Lass, D-Stevens Point, and supported by several other state legislators — the desired outcome is a straightforward effort by the state to capture manufacturing for the fast growing commercial wind energy sector.

“Tax-free bonds are a critical component of our financing plan for the 535,000 square foot plant,” noted Sam Fairchild, Energy Composites’ CEO, in a statement. “Development costs for our new factory are too large for traditional Industrial Development financing programs, and the Recovery Zone Bond program, which expires at the end of 2010, is precisely the right solution at precisely the right time.

“Senator Lassa recognized how critical tax-free financing is to our business model, and she moved with great agility and grace to ensure that we are eligible for this Federal program within a time frame that allows us to site the project in Wisconsin Rapids. For her diligence, foresight and confidence, we are most grateful.”

The 535,000 s.f. plant will be capable of making wind blades 65 meters in length that can supply both onshore and offshore wind farms, and will be build with “a maximum range of flexibility in production design” to be able to accomodate technological advances. The facility will partner with Mid-state Technical College, where prospective employees can get training in blade fabrication.

ECC’s founder and president Jamie Mancl, called the jobs that will be created “non-exportable” and thanked everyone involved from Lassa to Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Mary Jo Carson and many others for working beyond expectations to pave the way for the innovative project.

Fairchild said he expects the new plant to be in full production in the first quarter of 2011, in time to fill increasing demand for wind turbine blades.

Specifically, the company hopes to be a supplier for offshore wind operations in the Great Lakes region, said Adrian Williams, head of ECC’s WindFiber(TM) Division.  “…We believe that we will be in the right place at the right time.”

ECC already operates an automated 73,000 s.f. manufacturing facility in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, that creates “advanced composite materials” for a variety of clean-tech applications that touch on several industries, from wind to power plant operations. According to a corporate release, the company designs and engineers: wind energy system components, flue gas desulfurization for power plants, infrastructure for bio-fuel storage and processing, infrastructure for managing waste water and drinking water storage, advanced municipal utilities infrastructure, and caustic material storage and handling systems for the petrochemical, mining and the pulp and paper industries.