Supplying power-generation plants with critical equipment is the job of French energy company Alstom, a giant in the industry worldwide.
To expand its engineering and manufacturing capacity in the United States, Alstom has selected its Chattanooga operations for an investment of more than $200 million for a new manufacturing facility that will create about 350 jobs.
Richard Pangrazzi, director of marketing for Alstom Global Power Sales in the U.S. market, says the company made its decision by mapping locations of existing and potential customers.
“We put a lot of dots on the map and then discovered that Chattanooga is a central location with the added benefit of having both very good rail and river access, which made it very attractive for us,” he says. “Also, we’ve had a long and successful presence in Chattanooga.”
Also factoring into the decision, Pangrazzi says, were the city, county and state incentives.
At its existing operation in Chattanooga, Alstom employs about 600 people who manufacture boilers for power plants. (The company also employs about 600 workers at a facility in Knoxville.)
The new Chattanooga complex, which will be adjacent to the existing one, will produce steam turbines, gas turbines, generators and machinery needed to upgrade existing power plants. The massive pieces of equipment, some weighing several hundred tons, will be lifted onto nearby railcars or onto barges in the Tennessee River for delivery to customers.
Alstom’s new plant will be capable of producing the same number of nuclear steam turbines as its home factory in Belfort, France, and will increase the company’s worldwide manufacturing capacity by 10 to 15 percent.
Alstom, which has operations in 70 countries, invested in 2005 in a turbine factory in Beijing and has some capacity to build steam turbines in Mexico. Neither site, though, produces the company’s Arabelle model specifically for nuclear-power generation.
Alstom is banking on a resurgence of nuclear power in the United States. “We feel like the nuclear power industry is going through a revival in the U.S. and we want to be part of this revival,” Pangrazzi says.
The company is certainly off to a good start. In November 2007, Alstom was selected by Baltimore-based UniStar Nuclear Energy to supply at least four steam turbine generators for future advanced-design nuclear plants.
What’s more, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in a March 2008 assessment, says it expects to receive applications for more than 30 new nuclear power units before 2010.
Alstom also anticipates a demand for its steam turbines designed for coal-burning power plants. The efficient new turbines reduce a plant’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
Pangrazzi anticipates that the first phase of manufacturing will begin in the new Chattanooga facility no later than mid-2010.