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United States

Partnership opens door to US market

US: Despite a downturn in the US wind industry, big plans set in motion in years past are coming to fruition. A new wind tower factory in San Angelo, Texas is expected to be complete by the summer.

The facility represents the US beachhead for Portugal's Martifer Energy Systems, which has long provided towers and other components for the wind sector in Europe. In mid-2009, the firm formalised its partnership with Texas-based steel fabricator Hirschfeld industries.

John Wittig, spokesman for Martifer-Hirschfeld Energy Systems, says Martifer had sought entry into the US wind tower market since 2003. But Martifer's move came just when the US market took a downturn. The company had originally planned on entering alone and having a factory completed in San Angelo by the end of 2009. In the meantime, Hirschfeld had been planning on expanding into the wind power market from its more traditional steel industry work.

"The logic was, why have two competing for the same labour, so the talks began and this partnership prevailed," says Wittig. "No one could predict the capital market impact on the world, but we recognised where we were and the circumstances. We believe that there will be a return to the capital markets, and we believe that an Renewables Electricity Standard (RES) energy policy is going to drive ...

demand." The RES is a proposed national requirement that utilities derive a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy.

Hirschfeld operates nine facilities throughout the US producing a variety of steel products and churning through 100,000 tonnes of steel annually. Martifer brings the wind expertise. Its facility in Portugal produces around 400 towers a year since its entry into the market in 2004. It has provided towers to Vestas, GE, Repower, and Alstom.

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