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First Person: Preparing for a Wind Energy Future

The Fort Smith, Arkansas, facility will be MPSA's first nacelle production plant outside of Japan. The 200,000-square-foot plant, which is being designed and built by Gray Construction, is slated for completion by fall 2011 and expected to employ some 330 people. Recently, the editor of Area Development discussed MPSA's facility plans and the future of the U.S. wind power industry with Paul Thompson, who is the commercial director of MPSA's wind power group.

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Did Arkansas' renewable energy policies have a bearing on MPSA's decision?
Thompson: Yes. To say that Arkansas has a business friendly environment, as it relates to renewable energy, would be an understatement. The leadership in the state of Arkansas has a vision for and a demonstrated commitment to the renewable power industry. The business friendly environment is the reason Arkansas has landed several of the industry's new major manufacturing facilities, and we don't expect that will change anytime soon.

We know MPSA builds products for alternative energy, but what "green" manufacturing practices does MPSA itself engage in?
Thompson: Our "green" manufacturing practices range from the use of modern, energy-efficient equipment to the use of innovative manufacturing processes that minimize the amount of energy needed to build and refurbish our products. We reduce waste stream by recycling liquids, powder coatings, and gases during the manufacturing process. Also, our Ft. Smith plant will be LEED-certified Gold and contribute to the reduction of oil consumption and air pollution by using electric transport vehicles.

What does it mean for MPSA to commit to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards? Why does this matter?
Thompson: The ISO 14000 International Standard on environmental management is a relative newcomer to ISO's family of standards. Like the ISO 9001 standards, the ISO 14000 standards provide MPSA with a set of guidelines and measurements that help assure our customers and us that we are conducting our business in an environmentally responsible manner.

Can wind turbines be high-efficiency and "environmentally benign" at the same time?
Thompson: Absolutely. Wind turbines are by their very nature environmentally friendly compared to other generation technologies that produce harmful emissions. Wind turbines generate electricity by converting the energy in the wind to electricity, but do not produce harmful emissions and hazardous waste or decrease the earth's natural resources. Wind power is renewable and clean and has been in use for centuries for everything from pumping water to generating electricity. Because it is among the lowest cost to produce compared to other forms of renewable energy, we believe it will continue to be the leading renewable power technology in the future.

What would you say to those concerned about the turbines harming birds and other wildlife?
Thompson: First of all, today's newer towers have much lower mortality rates in terms of wildlife. And the industry overall does a great deal of research so that the towers aren't placed in environmentally sensitive areas, that is in places with migratory bird patterns and endangered species.

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