A powerful development
by Rob Poggenklass · News · April 26, 2007

Wind turbine manufacturer announces $23 million investment in West Branch’s industrial park

This week Acciona Windpower is expected to begin construction work on its first wind turbine plant in the United States — in West Branch.

The facility, to be built at the site of the old Sauer-Danfoss building, is expected to be operational by the end of the year. It represents an investment of $23 million and will produce 250 wind turbines in 2008 using in-house technology.

Acciona Energía had announced in February that it was considering West Branch. The city and state provided about $4.85 million in incentives, and have been waiting on pins and needles ever since. On Thursday, the news arrived at West Branch’s city offices from Adrian LaTrace, Acciona’s vice president of manufacturing in North America.

“It’s been a long wait but the wait has been worth it,” said City Administrator Ty Doermann. “We welcome Acciona to the West Branch community.”

It is the company’s fourth wind turbine assembly plant, with another two in Spain and a third in China.

Acciona said on its web site that it selected Iowa “due to its excellent logistical location in relation to a large number of wind power projects of the Acciona Group in the United States, and also to factors such as the existence of an industrial supplier base nearby, the support of the state and the City of West Branch for the investment, and the availability of a skilled workforce and technical training centers.” Iowa is third nationally in wind power capacity, after Texas and California.

Acciona had considered Galesburg, Ill., as the other possible site for the assembly plant, according to a story in the Carroll County Prairie Advocate, an Illinois newspaper.

The incentives were a major factor in Acciona’s decision to come to West Branch. In February, the state provided a $2 million float loan, a $500,000 investment from the Community Economic Betterment Account, and $350,000 from the Physical Infrastructure Assistance Program, along with tax benefits from the High Quality Jobs Creation program. The City of West Branch offered $2 million in Tax Increment Financing, for a grand total of about $4.85 million.

In return, Acciona is expected to create 100 new jobs in West Branch, which will pay an average of $15.14 an hour or about $31,500 per year. Acciona Windpower is currently working on structuring a network of U.S. suppliers for the plant, which will eventually become part of the overall supply chain of the company.

“This will definitely put West Branch on the map when it comes to renewable energy, and the state of Iowa as well,” said Doermann.

“We are thrilled that Acciona has chosen the state of Iowa for its first production facility in the U.S.,” said Iowa Governor Chet Culver, in a press release on Acciona’s web site, “We welcome them to West Branch and look forward to the economic opportunities this strategic partnership will create for our citizens. Thanks to announcements like this and programs like the soon-to-be-created Iowa Power Fund, we are taking the lead in the race to become the renewable energy capital of the world and building a brighter future for our state.”

Pete Duprey, CEO of Acciona Energy North America Corp., added, “West Branch is ideally situated, being central to wind power resources in North America. We greatly appreciate the support that the state and the City of West Branch have provided us for our investment, and we look forward to working with their highly skilled workforce as we expand our operations to provide wind energy benefits to communities worldwide.”

The announcement that Acciona would build its plant here was welcomed by the West Branch-based Iowa Renewable Energy Association. Michelle Kenyon Brown, I-Renew’s executive director, applauded the city, Cedar County Economic Development Commission, Iowa City Area Development group and the Iowa Department of Economic Development for their work in landing Acciona.

“Acciona Windpower is a great example of the type of company we need in Iowa, one that will create great jobs, while strengthening our economy and our national energy security,” said Michelle Kenyon Brown. “We look forward to working together to educate Iowans on the benefits of renewable energy.”

Acciona’s West Branch plant will supply wind turbines for wind farms located throughout North America and will provide the company, when it is operating at full capacity, with worldwide production capacity of 1,740 wind turbines for a total of 2,610 megawatts per year.

Acciona has already landed a contract for a new wind farm with 120 wind turbines in the Dakotas later this year, before the West Branch plant will be up and running. The wind turbines for that project will be produced in Spain and purchased from other companies, a company spokesman said in February. The Dakota wind farm will produce about 180 megawatts of power, or enough to power the University of Iowa more than four times over.

Of the 74,300 megawatts of wind power installed in the world at the end of 2006, Acciona Energía has implemented 4,357 MW (almost 6 percent of the world total). Three years after its creation, Acciona Windpower is the ninth world manufacturer of wind turbines with a market share of 2.8 percent.

The West Branch facility will utilize Acciona’s proprietary technology to produce its AW-1500 models, with rotor diameters of 77 and 82 meters, or 250 to 270 feet, for tower heights of 80 meters, or about 260 feet. The plant will also have the capacity to manufacture the company’s future three-megawatt AW-3000 model turbine.

Acciona will expand the old Sauer building to make room for production of its 1.5 megawatt wind turbines. An addition will be built around a crane that requires a 30-foot operating clearance. At least one wind turbine will be built on site, but it is not expected to provide power.

The wind turbines are constructed in two parts: the cell and the hub. When finished, they weigh 50 metric tons, very near the 155,000-pound capacity allowed on U.S. roads.

Some work remains to be done on the westbound access to Interstate 80 at the West Branch entrance, in order to make room for the nine-axle trucks that will transport the turbines out of West Branch.

There was no word on the purchase price of the 34-acre Sauer-Danfoss property and facility, built in 1997, which taken together are assessed at $4,077,680. The hydraulics company, which vacated the plant in 2003, paid $133,818 in property taxes this year. More than 75 percent of that money, or about $103,000, went to the City of West Branch and the West Branch Community School District.

Procter & Gamble, which is conducting its own major expansion across the street in West Branch’s industrial park, began leasing the Sauer building in March 2006 to accommodate increased product levels at its West Branch distribution center. P&G expected to be out of the Sauer building this spring.

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