It is a sad day for the U.S. renewable energy business. A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. (APWR), a Chinese producer of wind power turbines, has won the contract to provide turbines for one of the largest wind farms in America. The project, located in West Texas, will cost $1.5 billion, part of which will almost certainly be put up by Chinese banks. The company said that "Upon completion, it is anticipated to generate enough electricity for 180,000 homes in America."
According to a number of media sources, U.S. manufacturers of wind turbine components have had trouble getting financing during the recession. That means they had no realistic chance of bidding on the contract for the facility, which is expected to begin operating by 2011 and could create as many as 2,800 jobs.
The new Texas project shows the extent to which capital from the Chinese government allows companies in the world's most populous nation to develop and sell new technology, while in the U.S. the capital markets strangle opportunities for innovation. The U.S. may be the beneficiary of less expensive energy, but the money made off of the components is likely to be made by Chinese companies.
Wind farms are one of the largest renewable energy prospects of the future. Only a year ago, T. Boone Pickens attempted to build a massive wind farm in West Texas. The project faltered, apparently due to lack of funds. Part of the U.S. government's stimulus package might have gone to help U.S. suppliers to help build turbines for the project, but that did not happen.
The A-Power Energy deal is a sign that the campaign for America to rely less on fossil fuels is gaining some traction, but the tools to allow it to happen will be marked "made in China".
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.