Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, advising him to deny any Recovery Act funds to the project. “The idea that stimulus funds would be used to create jobs overseas is quite troubling, and therefore I urge you to reject any request for stimulus money unless the high-value components, including the wind turbines, are manufactured in the United States,” he wrote.
The project developers responded by announcing plans to build a wind turbine assembly plant in the United States that will eventually create 1,000 jobs, and may supply some of the turbines for the Texas project. Then the United Steelworkers announced a deal with A-Power, the Chinese contractor and manufacturer for the project. Many turbine parts will still be manufactured in China, but A-Power has agreed to buy 50,000 tons of U.S. steel for the project and make key parts of the turbine, such as the main towers, in the United States.
As well as mollifying the opposition, the new assembly plant and the steel agreement will give A-Power access to the very large wind-power market in the U.S. Although U.S. steel is more expensive than Chinese steel, A-Power says that it breaks even by saving on shipping costs from China. “The overall costs are more or less the same,” says Sun Kai, vice president and senior accountant at Liaoning Hi-Tech Energy Group, A-Power’s parent company.
Other Chinese wind companies are now considering similar approaches to accessing the U.S. wind market. For example, Goldwind Global, one of the biggest Chinese manufacturers, has announced it is considering building an assembly plant in the United States.
The agreement between the United Steelworkers and A-Power is a model that can be copied by other companies, says Joanna Lewis, a professor of science, technology, and international affairs at Georgetown University, although she notes that the specifics of each deal—such as what parts will be manufactured in the U.S.—will vary from company to company. “A-Power has managed the situation well, working with the U.S. so that both sides benefit,” she says.