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Mitsubishi Heavy Considers US Wind Turbine Plant

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd said it is considering building a wind turbine plant in the United States, and will a make final decision after seeing how demand recovers.

Mitsubishi is currently tussling with General Electric over wind turbine patents, with the GE this month filing patent suits against the Japanese company in a U.S. Court.

GE, the biggest wind turbine maker in the United States, earlier lost a case against Mitsubishi filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Mitsubishi, which holds some 7 percent of the U.S. market, sells about 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) worth of wind turbines a year, with 80-90 percent of them sold in the United States.

Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, Inc., (MPSA), a United States (Delaware) corporation, announced its intention to build a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas. MPSA plans to invest approximately $100 million in the project, which could employ as many as 400 people.

“We are very excited to announce today the future MPSA Wind Turbine manufacturing site in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” said Koji Hasegawa, President and CEO of MPSA, based in Lake Mary Florida. “After an intensive site selection process conducted during the last fifteen months, we concluded that Fort Smith, Arkansas offers the most attractive site and community support for building and operating our wind turbine plant. We are very thankful for the excellent support provided to us by Governor Mike Beebe, Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, Congressman John Boozman, Maria Haley and her Economic Development staff and the entire Arkansas delegation. Additionally, we are also very impressed with Arkansas’s commitment to the renewable energy industry. With the establishment of this Wind Turbine manufacturing plant, we are also planning to expand our component sourcing in the U.S. so as to shorten our supply chain”

MPSA intends to locate its wind turbine manufacturing plant in a new 200,000 sq. ft. facility at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, occupying 90 acres.

“The arrival of Mitsubishi in Arkansas is exciting news for our economy and for our renewable-energy manufacturing sector,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “Mitsubishi is a brand recognized and respected worldwide, and the substantial investment they will make in Fort Smith is evidence of Arkansas’s momentum in the global economy.”

MPSA’s search for its manufacturing location started mid 2008. Over the past few weeks, it began narrowing the search and focusing on Arkansas.

“The announcement is great news for the Fort Smith and the entire state of Arkansas,” said U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. “It is evidence of the hard work exhibited by the Fort Smith community and the great spirit of cooperation between Governor Beebe, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and the Arkansas Congressional delegation.

Mitsubishi’s investment in Arkansas is a testament to our state’s greatest asset, our people. I’m also proud that the community of Fort Smith as well as our state, under the strong leadership of the Governor, were able to put to good use the economic tools necessary to attract this newest corporate citizen to our state. This plant will provide an economic boost to our state and help Arkansas continue to be a leader in the manufacture of wind power as we look to transition from an old energy economy to a new energy economy.”

The company plans on beginning construction by early 2011. “Arkansas and Mitsubishi are a winning combination for renewable energy and economic development,” U.S. Senator Mark Pryor said. “I know that Mitsubishi will benefit from the area’s strong community support, work ethic and ingenuity. This partnership will bring America one step closer to realizing the full potential of wind energy.”

MPSA currently has more than 4,500 wind turbines in operation worldwide, and over 3,000 wind turbines in the US. MHI has been engaged in the research and development of wind turbines since 1980 and since then they have developed the output of induction type and variable speed type machines from 250 kW to 2,400 kW.

According to Reuters, General Electric filed a lawsuit against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and two U.S. units, accusing them of infringing two patents used in variable speed wind turbines.

The suit filed in federal court in Dallas asked for a permanent injunction barring Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its subsidiaries from using the patented technology and also for unspecified damages. The lawsuit is General Electric v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America and Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 10-00276.

The U.S. wind power industry broke all previous records by installing nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2009 (enough to serve over 2.4 million homes), but still lags in manufacturing, said the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The 9,922 MW installed last year expand the US’s wind farm fleet by 39% and bring total wind power generating capacity in the U.S to over 35,000 MW. The five-year average annual growth rate for the wind energy industry is now 39%, up from 32% between 2003 and 2008.