The Brevini wind turbine plant announced for western Delaware County comes at just the right time, experts say, as the United States invests in — and gives tax breaks to — wind energy development.

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“It’s a pretty exciting time in wind energy,” said Julie Clendinin of the

American Wind Energy Association.

State, federal and local officials gathered last week to announce Brevini —

an Italian gearbox manufacturer founded by brothers in 1960 — would relocate

its U.S. headquarters from the Chicago area to Delaware County and build its

first stateside manufacturing operation here.

A $62.5 million investment, the facility will employ 455 people by the time

it is operating in 2010 and have an annual payroll of $20.9 million.

Aside from the impact of hundreds of jobs, officials hailed the development

as a step toward “green” manufacturing locally. Brevini’s 150,000-square-foot

facility will be built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

(LEED) standards, which gauge environmentally sustainable construction. The

company said some of the facility’s power will be generated by gearbox

testing.

Beyond the environmental standards of the building, however, Brevini’s local

plant could join a boom in the growing alternative energy industry.

“The U.S. market for electricity manufacturing is so great, a lot of turbine

manufacturers are looking to site in rust belt states,” Clendinin said.

“Facilities for the auto industry are well suited for manufacturing. It’s a good

fit for those states.”

Locally, Brevini will build its own plant and not re-use a former facility,

but members of United Auto Workers Local 287 said last week they hope to

transition from jobs at the closing BorgWarner Automotive plant to jobs at

Brevini.

Clendinin and Mike Dergis, a principal with Roland Berger Strategic

Consultants in Troy, Michigan, noted that Congress recently passed an extension

of a federal tax credit for wind energy production development.

“That provides some long-term security for the industry,” Dergis said.

Economist Michael Hicks of Ball State University said the location of the

Brevini plant “made perfect sense” because of access not only to Interstate 69

but the number of major highways passing through Indiana.

“It’s a prime location,” he said.

The wind energy group noted that the industry grew by 45 percent in 2007,

with 5,200 megawatts installed.

“The wind power industry is facing shortages of wind turbine components, as

demand for wind power continues to increase in the U.S. and worldwide,” the AWEA

said.

Dergis noted that there were risks involved with getting into wind

energy.

“Obviously, there’s a risk that wind generation doesn’t grow as fast as the

predictions,” Dergis said. “But I believe on a global basis, we will see that

growth continue. If all the states jump into it, and a lot of new competitors

join the race, we could be at over-capacity and that would result in a shakeout

and mergers. But at the moment, we’re not near that point.”

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