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MHI suspends Arkansas nacelle plant

UNITED STATES: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has suspended plans to build its wind turbine factory in Arkansas, citing poor market conditions in the US.

The factory was planned for Fort Smith and was to build the company's controversial 2.4MW turbine, which has been at the centre of a dispute with GE over intellectual property rights.

MHI first started construction
on the $100million nacelle plant in October 2010. At the time, it said the factory, its first nacelle plant outside of Japan, would create about 330 jobs and be operational by the fall of 2011.

In January, it was revealed the plant had been completed in the autumn of 2011 but was sitting idle. "A final decision on the production start date at the plant is still under review," the MHI spokeswoman said at the time.

The GE dispute is believed to have hit MHI's sales of the turbine. The only recent deal for the MHI 2.4 is for Duke Energy's Los Vientos II project in Texas.

There is a feeling within the industry that the battle is not going MHI's way. In March, A Dallas court last night ordered MHI to pay damages of $170 million to GE for patent infringement.

The federal court jury found that MHI’s flagship 2.4MW turbine had infringed GE’s ‘705 patent for a form of low-and zero-voltage ride-through (LVRT) technology, which allows turbines to cope with voltage fluctuations on the grid.

 "We are obviously disappointed," said an MHI spokeswoman. She said that the Japanese company will try to have GE found guilty of ‘inequitable conduct’ regarding the ‘705 patent in  a second phase of the trial, in a few months’ time.

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