A Chinese wind-turbine company, with financing help from Beijing, has struck a deal to be the exclusive supplier to one of the largest wind-farm developments in the U.S., a sign of how Chinese firms are aggressively capitalizing on America's clean-energy push.
The 36,000-acre development in West Texas would receive $1.5 billion in financing through Export-Import Bank of China. Shenyang Power Group, a five-month-old alliance, would supply the project with 240 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines, among the biggest made in the world.
The Obama administration is hoping a shift to renewable energy will inject new life into the U.S. manufacturing base and provide high-paying jobs, making up for losses in other sectors. But while the U.S. has poured money into renewable energy through tax credits and other subsidies, China has positioned itself to reap many of the benefits by ramping up its export machine.
Global manufacturing of wind turbines shifted primarily to Europe from the U.S. after the 1980s, as nations such as Spain created special pricing for renewable power. By 2005, less than a quarter of components going into turbines installed in the U.S. were made domestically.
The extension of a production tax credit stimulated domestic output during the past few years. But Elizabeth Salerno, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said that in the first three quarters of 2009, there were 33% fewer announcements of U.S. turbine-factory expansions than in the comparable period of 2008.
U.S. officials and domestic suppliers have been concerned that the U.S. wouldn't reap the full benefit of the country's rapid expansion in renewable energy. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) has voiced concern that the U.S. has outsourced much of its clean-energy manufacturing capacity. As part of the stimulus bill earlier this year, he earmarked a $2.3 billion tax credit for domestic producers of clean-energy equipment.
Another hurdle is that many renewable-energy projects in the U.S. are having trouble securing financing because of tight credit markets and lower prices for power sales. As a result, many privately funded projects have been scaled back or canceled.
The federal government is trying to breathe new life into the industry and last month handed out more than $500 million in grants to a dozen wind and solar-energy projects.
Cappy McGarr, managing partner of U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a private-equity firm that is lead partner on the 600-megawatt development, said the partnership would seek tax credits and support from the federal stimulus package, which should amount to millions of dollars. Mr. McGarr said the project should create 2,800 jobs -- of which 15% would be in the U.S. The rest would flow to China, where Shenyang employs 800 people.
Meanwhile, China is planning on future investments in the U.S. renewable industry as a way of creating a market for Chinese wind and solar equipment manufacturers.
"This is just the beginning," said Lu Jinxiang, chief executive of A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd., which controls Shenyang Power. He said the U.S. "is an ideal target" as it seeks to shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels.
The West Texas project exclusively would use 2.5-megawatt turbines made at Shenyang's turbine-manufacturing facility. The Texas project would soak up more than half of Shenyang's current annual production of 1,125 megawatts of turbine capacity.
The project still must garner the necessary permits, but developers hope to have turbines in service in March 2011.
Ben Casselman contributed to this article.