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Wind turbine plant shuts down Windsor

The closure of the WindTronics plant in the 600 block of Sprucewood Avenue leaves about 20 employees without a job. But that number pales in comparison to the 200 jobs the Michigan-based company promised when it accepted a green energy grant from the provincial government.

A wind turbine manufacturer which received $2.7 million from the province to open its doors in Windsor has shut down its local operation after only two years.

The closure of the WindTronics plant in the 600 block of Sprucewood Avenue leaves about 20 employees without a job.

But that number pales in comparison to the 200 jobs the Michigan-based company promised when it accepted a green energy grant from the provincial government.

WindTronics president Reg Adams said Thursday that the blame for the plant's failure belongs to the Ministry of Energy.

According to Adams, the government did not follow through on a pledge to provide the same consumer discounts for small wind turbine products that have been provided the solar industry.

"We wanted our flagship plant in Canada; that's why we came here," he said. "We had multiple meetings for two years for the feed-in tariff regarding small wind.

"Small wind does not get what was promised to us and that was the reason for our move."

Users of large wind turbine products also receive a discount, but there is nothing for small wind, he said.

"When we visited with the ministry originally and talked about what was... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A wind turbine manufacturer which received $2.7 million from the province to open its doors in Windsor has shut down its local operation after only two years.

The closure of the WindTronics plant in the 600 block of Sprucewood Avenue leaves about 20 employees without a job.

But that number pales in comparison to the 200 jobs the Michigan-based company promised when it accepted a green energy grant from the provincial government.

WindTronics president Reg Adams said Thursday that the blame for the plant's failure belongs to the Ministry of Energy.

According to Adams, the government did not follow through on a pledge to provide the same consumer discounts for small wind turbine products that have been provided the solar industry.

"We wanted our flagship plant in Canada; that's why we came here," he said. "We had multiple meetings for two years for the feed-in tariff regarding small wind.

"Small wind does not get what was promised to us and that was the reason for our move."

Users of large wind turbine products also receive a discount, but there is nothing for small wind, he said.

"When we visited with the ministry originally and talked about what was required, we agreed it would be the same pay back as solar and that would entice the industry to get going and we would have been more than happy with that," Adams said.

"Both with the Energy Ministry and Economic Development (ministry) we had multiple discussions and emails the last two years. It didn't happen, then the (provincial) election diffused it and now they are withholding the release of anything (in further green energy incentives)."

WindTronics was leasing space for its production facility in Windsor with an expiry date of March 31.

Adams said the company will consolidate production back to Grand Rapids, Mich., where a few of the Windsor employees will be transferred - but the bulk of the company's Windsor employees will be out of a job.

Adams said WindTronics committed $20 million to opening in Windsor, paying for production equipment, inventory, training and sales efforts.

The company has already moved out of its production facility, but will maintain an office in Windsor in hopes there will be second thoughts by government and renewed support for the industry, he said.

"We are still open to discussions," Adams said. "The way the program is now is counterproductive for us. We can't move products in Canada."

At its peak, WindTronics had 50, but has been slowly winding down its staff since January with indefinite layoffs.

Adams conceded the company's products overall have not sold as projected.

"It's definitely been slower than expected, but we are pleased with the progress," Adams said. "We are seeded in about 40 countries, so it's coming.

"We're very disappointed. I still think there is opportunity. This was to be our international shipping point."

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley on Thursday called the wind turbine company's decision "very unfortunate," but noted Ontario - and especially Windsor - will remain at the forefront in the push toward becoming a major centre worldwide in the green energy sector.

"I'm disappointed and feel for the families involved," he said. "Ontario is a leader in green energy and it's one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. As we continue to be leaders, you will see many companies come in and grow, while others unfortunately will seek results elsewhere."

He confirmed the provincial government, through the economic development ministry, will study the agreement to determine whether it can recoup any of the funds it gave to WindTronics.

The government did study whether a new small wind turbine category should be created under the FIT program, but determined the cost benefit of doing so - among other factors - pointed to that being not worthwhile.

"I'm sorry (WindTronics) was disappointed there were not more incentives made available, but we did provide $2.7 million to the company in the first place," Bentley said.

"We conducted a green energy review which indicated not to create a new category for wind. It was decided to stay with the existing categories - which are doing well. We will be concentrating our efforts there."

Of the $2.7 million WindTronics received, Adams said the company has spent only about $2.2 million.

"We never used the whole grant," he said. "We stopped as we got into the discussions and (the government's position) was clear last fall, so we stopped drawing down on it."

Given what the company spent to set up in Windsor, Adams doesn't believe any of the funds should be returned: "Who is offsetting our expenses?"

MPP Taras Natyshak (NDP - Essex) said he was disappointed by the wind turbine plant closure, describing it as a government gamble that went terribly wrong.

"We in Windsor-Essex County can't afford any job losses," he said. "What is more disappointing is the government gave this company $2.7 million in the hopes it would create 200 jobs. You can't base economic strategy on hope."


Source: http://blogs.windsorstar.co...

MAR 30 2012
https://www.windaction.org/posts/33533-wind-turbine-plant-shuts-down-windsor
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