Siemens Has Big Plans For Wind Turbine Plant

German conglomerate wants its future 300,000-square-foot wind turbine assembly plant in Hutchinson, Kan., to be a ‘showcase’ for wind energy.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- An executive of German conglomerate Siemens AG says the company wants its future wind turbine assembly plant in Kansas to be a "showcase" for wind energy.

The company announced plans last week to build the 300,000-square-foot plant in Hutchinson. The plant will eventually employ about 400 people building nacelles (nuh-SEHLS') -- the 90-ton structures that house the power-generating components on top of wind turbines.

Kevin Hazel, vice president of supply chain management for Siemens Wind Power in America, told about 450 people at Hutchinson's Fox Theatre on Tuesday that a combination of location, quality labor and the attitudes of local and state officials made Hutchinson the right place for the plant.

In all, Siemens received proposals from 80 sites around the country for the project, which will also include an 80,000-square-foot service center. The buildings will sit on a 102-acre site at the Salt City Business Park, which the city and Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce donated to the company.

The plant will include a working turbine to show to prospective customers, Hazel said.

"This site will become our showcase for wind energy in America," he said.

Construction on the $50 million plant is expected to start late this year, with hiring to begin in the first half of 2010, Hazel said. About 25 to 40 employees will be hired each month until the operation reaches its full complement.

Crews from the company's nacelle plant in Brande, Denmark, will be brought to Hutchinson to train the initial workforce, and the plant's manager and some management staff members will also come from Denmark.

By mid-2011, Siemens expects the plant to run two shifts a day and produce about 650 turbine nacelles each year.

The company expects to sell $1.5 billion to $2 billion in wind turbines from Hutchinson a year "and we want 90 percent of that to be U.S. dollars by 2012," Hazel said.

Siemens already operates a rotor blade plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, that opened in 2007. The company's wind power business employs more than 5,500 workers and has operations in Denmark and Colorado.

While the Hutchinson plant will be strictly assembly, Siemens expects that manufacturers of major wind turbine components will follow the company from Denmark and set up their own operations in the Hutchinson area, Hazel said.

"We hope some others will see the wisdom we did and come to Kansas," he said.

But the company will also cultivate any new suppliers in the area who can provide parts, he said.

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