Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has decided to build a wind turbine manufacturing plant in the US state of Arkansas. The new plant, which will fabricate nacelles, a core component of wind turbines, is slated to begin operation in the second half of 2011 with an initial annual production capacity of 600 megawatts (MW). MHI looks to expand its share in the North American market, which is now in a recovery trend. The new plant will be the company's first nacelle production plant located outside of Japan.
The new facility is to be built in Fort Smith, the second-largest city in Arkansas. It will be operated and managed by Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, Inc. (MPSA), MHI's power systems business base in Florida. Construction on an already secured site of roughly 90 acres (approx. 360,000 square meters) is slated to begin within this year.
Plans call for the plant to begin operations with about 300 employees. The initial manufacturing target will be near 250 units of 2.4 MW wind turbines per year, with scale to be expanded incrementally thereafter. MHI will also consider launching longer-blade type turbines for low wind-speed applications.
In conjunction with the plant construction project, the Arkansas state and Fort Smith municipal governments will provide incentive measures, complementing IRS 48C Advanced Energy Project Tax Credit.
The nacelle, which is located at the top of the wind turbine tower and functions to convert wind energy to electric power, consists of the wind turbine rotor axis, generator, multiplying gearbox, control system and electrical equipment.
Since delivering its first unit in 1980, MHI has engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of wind turbines for three decades, and in the process it has established its position as Japan's largest wind turbine manufacturer. Installation of the company's first wind turbine in the US took place in 1987, and to date MHI has delivered more than 3,500 units to the US market.
The US wind turbine market slowed after the global financial crisis but is now in a recovery trend and expected to mark strong growth. MHI already has a turbine blade manufacturing plant serving the US market: VienTek, LLC, located in Mexico. By localizing nacelle production through the establishment of a plant in Fort Smith, going forward MHI will further enhance its ability to respond to and satisfy growing demand throughout North America.