Two 1.5 megawatt Sinovel Wind turbines destined for Fairhaven have arrived in Providence from China. As was promoted at the town turbine forum in Fairhaven last week by one of the project developers, the Sinovel turbines come from China but have “Massachusetts technology.”
Sinovel, until recently, was American Superconductor’s biggest customer. Last year, Sinovel allegedly breached its contract with AMSC (based in Devens, Mass.) and is now being charged with intellectual property theft of their turbine software, specifically for the 1.5 megawatt model.
This past September, in response to AMSC’s complaint against Sinovel, Sen. John Kerry (who is also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: “If we don’t get this resolved, it threatens hundreds of good jobs in Massachusetts. The bottom line is that this misconduct represents an egregious breach of ethical and legal commitments, which doesn’t just imperil collaboration with an American company but is also a blow to Sino-American co-operation in the clean energy sector – and that’s not in anyone’s real interest.” In addition to public statements by Sen. Kerry, other U.S. governmental agencies are also lobbying on behalf of AMSC, including the departments of State and Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission.
Unfortunately, it has been reported that Sinovel has no appreciable assets in the United States, so whatever legal and financial restitution that might eventually be forthcoming must be offered by the Chinese judicial system (currently, AMSC’s complaint has been filed with the Beijing Arbitration Commission).
This doesn’t sound like a good business deal, ethically speaking, and it sounds like it has the potential of being a PR nightmare at the local, state and national levels. What message does this send to the alternative energy companies that may want to base their businesses in Massachusetts? What message does this send to the public regarding the safeguarding of American innovation, our economic competitiveness and fair international trade? Have the Patrick administration and Sen. Kerry considered the negative effects this could have on future sitings for alternative energy? What about those hundreds of good jobs in Massachusetts?
When you also consider that Sinovel turbines reportedly have no minimum setback requirements and are being sited so close to neighborhoods, it all becomes very concerning. We all have heard of the accounts of health problems from being too close to turbines. As a result of the AMSC lawsuit, another question may be Sinovel’s solvency and the future ability to maintain its turbines with pirated parts.
It’s not too late to rethink this deal. American pride and common sense are at stake.
Christopher Andersen lives in Fairhaven.
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