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Veteran reveals manufacturing plans -- New American 2.5 MW turbine

California-based Clipper Windpower, until now purely a project developer, is looking for its first manufacturing site to begin building the Liberty, a 2.5 MW turbine. "We hope to finalise a site in the second quarter," says CEO Jim Dehlsen.

Responding to rumours that the facility might be built in Nevada, Dehlsen says the plant will be "a lot more central." Colorado has also been named a potential site, but Dehlsen declines to confirm that any site has been chosen. Proximity to highways and air transportation are essential to wherever the plant will be located.

Clipper Windpower's 2.5 MW turbine will use new technology to reduce stress on moving parts while allowing the turbine to generate power at low wind speeds. The turbine, tentatively named the Liberty, will use four gear sets to drive four generators and a drive train designed to keep torque stress low and availability high. The Liberty will use a 91 metre rotor that sits atop a tower slightly taller than a 1.5 MW turbine tower. Although the Liberty produces two-thirds more power than a 1.5 MW turbine, its footprint is only slightly larger. A prototype that will be tested at Medicine Bow, Wyoming, later this year is expected to be capable of operating at full power with wind speeds averaging below 5.8 m/s.

Three facilities

Ultimately, Dehlsen says Clipper plans to build three manufacturing facilities in the Midwest, the Southeast and in the Southwest. The first plant would employ about 75 workers. When the three plants are operating, total employment could reach up to 250 employees, he adds. Dehlsen is the former owner and founder of pioneering wind plant developer and turbine manufacturer Zond before it was bought by Enron and subsequently by GE Energy. Today, GE is the only American manufacturer of utility scale wind turbines.

Clipper has not officially announced pricing, but Dehlsen has said prices per unit will likely be slightly less per megawatt than 1.5 MW turbines available on the market today. Development of the turbine was funded by a US Department of Energy grant for $8.9 million, along with $1.6 million from the California Energy Commission.

Clipper also operates wind projects. Responding to reports that Clipper Windpower may shift from project development to manufacturing, Dehlsen says three to five years out "that's a natural thing to have happen. But I like the model of building projects and manufacturing." Dehlsen founded Clipper Windpower in 2001.

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