Wind Factory Watch: ZF Industries, Georgia

Germany's ZF Group, a major manufacturer of drive train equipment, broke ground recently on a $90-million wind turbine gearbox factory in Gainesville, GA.

The new plant, company officials said, will employ 215 workers when it is fully operational in 2012.

At the same time, it offers yet another concrete answer (along with other wind equipment factories going up in Arkansas, South Carolina and elsewhere) to Congressional opponents of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).

Those opponents have argued strenuously that an RES (a national requirement that utilities obtain a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources) will discriminate against the Southeastern U.S. because it has little in the way of commercial wind resources.

What this argument fails to take into account is, first, that the Southeast has enormous biomass energy resources (indeed, enough that it currently exports some) and second, that it stands to reap new manufacturing jobs from a strong American wind energy industry, in part because jobs in the region's existing auto industry require similar skills. The new ZF Industries wind plant will be located just minutes away from an existing company plant that makes automotive equipment.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) was on hand for the groundbreaking, and here's what he had to say: “Now [ZF Industries is] getting into the renewable energy sector. That’s a good field; it allows Georgia to participate in the renewable energy sector. While we may not be able harvest all the wind, it’s still an opportunity to make the products that will harvest the wind energy worldwide.”


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