Nordex USA, Inc., a leading manufacturer of utility-scale wind turbines, it would build a wind turbine factory in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “I am pleased that Nordex has chosen Arkansas for its manufacturing center,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “Our success in the clean-energy economy is exciting, and having a global wind energy company, like Nordex, in the Natural State helps to promote sustainability, alternative-energy development, and environmentally-friendly practices.”
The first phase of construction began at the 187-acre site in Craighead Technology Park in late July. Nordex has been undeterred in its plans to build and hire. “We are positioning ourselves for the market surge around the corner,” said Ralf Sigrist, President and CEO of Nordex USA, based in Chicago. “We are absolutely confident that the US wind power market will be the biggest in the world. ‘Made-in-Arkansas’ is at the core of our strategy to win.” Production is scheduled to begin in mid 2010.
Nordex is already seeing a pick up in the market. It recently completed the 62.5 megawatt “Highland” wind farm in Pennsylvania and is working on further projects. Parent company Nordex AG attributes much of its profit growth to the US market. The US accounted for 12 percent of the company’s global sales, up from roughly one percent in the previous year. “I repeatedly sense that nowhere is the renewable energy vision stronger than in the United States,” remarked Thomas Richterich, CEO of Nordex AG. “And when America catches a vision, the whole world changes.”
“We expect to be producing up to 300 wind turbines a year by 2014,” said Joe Brenner, VP of Production in Jonesboro. “It will take a highly-skilled, well-trained workforce of around 700 people to make that happen. Right now we have five people and a construction zone. So we’re looking at a strong ramp-up and an aggressive recruiting and training program.”
Hiring will span about four years. Nordex plans to locally employ close to 100 people by the end of 2010, as it begins ramping up nacelle assembly, in the areas of operations, office support, supply management, production engineering, quality assurance and more. Recruiting will begin in January followed by hiring in the spring. The nacelle workforce will gradually reach up to 240 people as the plant approaches full capacity over the next two and a half years. Recruiting and hiring will follow a similar pattern for the rotor blade facility, which will be built in phase two of the construction.
Besides direct hires, Nordex is also creating jobs through the contracting of services. For example, Nordex has contracted with the construction firm, H&M Company, Inc. of Jackson, Tennessee, which is dedicating between 250 and 300 workers to the construction project.
Finally, the company is localizing its supply chain. “We want to foster a neighborhood of local wind players around Jonesboro,” said Brenner. “Logistically, it’s more efficient to share a backyard than to ship large components cross-country.”
The Jonesboro operation will be an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) producing one of the largest classes of wind turbines in the world, the 2.5 megawatt N90 and N100. Each of these utility-scale turbines is capable of generating enough renewable energy to power about 700 American homes. In 2000, Nordex built the first turbine this large and has the longest track record for reliability in the multi-megawatt class. The $40 million nacelle assembly plant will have 115,000 square feet of production space, 10,000 square feet for a Training Academy and 35,000 square feet of office space. The $60 million rotor blade facility is then expected to begin production in late 2012.
Heating and cooling at the plant will be powered entirely by geothermal energy. “The investment will pay for itself within 12 years,” said Sigrist, “and will save considerable amounts over the long run. Just as renewable energy will do for all of America. The investment pays off.”
Nordex is one of the fastest growing wind turbine producers, operating in 18 countries and employing 2,200 people. There are currently 3,927 Nordex wind turbines rotating in 34 countries with a total rated output of more than 5,339 megawatts. In 2008, Nordex achieved over $1.5 billion in sales and produced the 1,000th turbine of the N80/N90/N100 class. The company’s global headquarters is located in Hamburg, Germany.