"We haven't selected a location for the blade facility yet," says Gabriel Alonso of Gamesa Energy USA, adding: "Both our US development arm headquarters and our east coast development office will be located in Philadelphia."
Alonso says the company chose Philadelphia because of its proximity to New York, the country's financial centre, to Washington DC, the political centre and the availability of Pennsylvania's highly trained but currently unemployed steel workers. The company also favours Pennsylvania because of its proactive encouragement of wind energy and its location in the centre of a group of states with good renewables legislation, particularly New York and New Jersey.
"It's priority number one for us," says Pennsylvania state environment secretary Kathleen A McGinty. "We have identified clean advanced energy as a strategic sector for the state of Pennsylvania." The state has a long tradition in energy. It has major coal deposits and was the site of the world's first drilled oil well. Its energy resources made it a major US manufacturing centre until the mid-20th century, but with the decline in American steel, Pennsylvania has fallen on hard times.
"Wind energy -- along with other forms of advanced energy technology -- is something that's in our blood in Pennsylvania. We want to be involved with and on the cutting edge of energy development," McGinty says. According to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Gamesa's decision will bring a $25 million boost to the state.
Gamesa CEO Inaki Lopez Gandasegui says the company has signed power purchase agreements and letters of intent from three utilities for at least 400 MW of wind energy in Pennsylvania. Today the state has 129 MW. "Over the course of more than eight months, the state worked closely with Gamesa on this," says Kurt Knaus from the state environment department.
McGinty, a native of Philadelphia, has a long-standing interest in clean energy. During the Clinton administration, she chaired the White House Council on Environmental Quality and created and headed the first-ever White House Office on Environmental Policy. She also heads the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. "This authority enables us to invest in facilities related to clean energy, whether it's manufacturing or the energy projects," she says. "We can also do nearly $1 billion worth of tax-free bonds."
"We are the leading state east of the Mississippi in the deployment of wind energy. That's going to grow. We're interested in wind not only as a way to clean our air but as a substantial boon to agriculture, also a leading part of our economy. Wind farms have been a great new product line for our farmers," she says.
McGinty says the state has an "overall potential" for 5800 MW of wind energy and that the government's goal is to develop at least 2000 MW of "very commercial" wind energy within five to seven years. The Gamesa decision is helping, she says. "There have been many positive ripple effects coming from the new partnership with Gamesa."
She said the current state administration has do doubt about the cost-competitiveness of wind energy and that it considers complaints regarding the intermittency of wind as baseless. "I would suggest we take another look at what is intermittent. During the recent massive floods we had, the wind turbines worked. What didn't work was coal-fired generation because the rivers were so high we could not get the barges in to service the plants. And the last time we had an energy emergency was a decade ago because the coal piles literally froze solid. So from our perspective, every fuel source one way or another is intermittent."