Butte skeptics doubt wind plant will be built

While Duluth and Ohio are feeling two-timed by Fuhrlander of Germany’s choice to build its first U.S plant in Butte, some there are skeptical.

Fuhrlander, a major European wind turbine manufacturer, had been courted in the last year by several states and regions for its expansion to the United States. Curiously, they required secrecy of the local officials they talked to, as they narrowed their choice down to Duluth and Ohio. And while we waited for their decision, Fuhrlander turned back to an old suitor — Butte, Mont.

Joachim Fuhrlander, the company’s chairman, told officials there last week that they will build there first.

You can’t blame the people of Butte for being skeptcal. Fuhrlander has made promises to Montana before.

Back in 2008, Fuhrlander promised to build a nacelle plant just outside Butte. In March of that year, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced Fuhrlander’s plans to build the $25 million plant that would employ 150 people (double that if you add jobs created by spin-off industries).

At the time, Joachim Fuhrlander said his company might build a second factory there to build the huge blades for the wind turbines, creating another 600 jobs.

They had a time line then, too. Construction was to begin in late 2008 and be completed in 2009.

It never happened, thanks to a tanking U.S. economy.

But despite Fuhrlander’s visit to Butte last week and publicly telling officials and the media that if they build, it will be there, some there doubt it will actually happen. While demand for wind energy will increase in United States to meet new renewable energy mandates, the naysayers point to the European economy in crisis.

In "A Knife in the Heart Of All Duluth,"http://2ndgradebikerack.blogspot.com/2010/06/knife-in-heart-of-all-duluth.html , posted today, a Montana blogger says the government announcements of the Butte turbine plant were overly optimistic.

"The lack of a firm date being announced last week is not good news in my opinion," the blogger writes. "… Don’t give up Duluth, Montana’s chances don’t appear to me to be any more concrete than over a year ago when it was announced construction was going to begin."