Monday, July 27, 2009

Siemens Energy's Randy Zwirm

Jul 27, 2009 (The Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- SI | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Randy Zwirn is chief executive officer of Siemens Energy Inc., the Orlando-based Americas headquarters for German-based Siemens AG's power-generation business. Zwirn spoke with Sentinel staff writer Kevin Spear.

CFB: What's the potential for wind energy in the United States?

We believe that by 2030 as much as 20 percent of the nation's energy can come from renewable energy, primarily wind.

CFB: How important is wind energy for Siemens?

I would say, looking at the expectations of the current administration [in Washington, D.C.], very important. We've invested heavily in that market.

CFB: Siemens calls itself a leader in green energy; why don't we hear much about the company and solar?

Actually, we are making investments in solar power. We just announced our first [partial] acquisition of an Italian company called Archimedes, which is involved in photovoltaics. We intend to be a player in the field.

CFB: Siemens recently said it will build a factory in Kansas where hundreds of workers will build the hubs of wind turbines. Does that translate into more work for Siemens in Orlando?

Our growth here in Orlando has been fairly impressive. We will have by the end of the year close to 150 people in our headquarters here who will be involved just in the wind-energy business. While we won't have factories here in Orlando, the staff that supports that business will continue to grow.

CFB: NASA could soon start to lay off thousands of skilled employees at Kennedy Space Center. Do you see Siemens ever opening a wind-turbine factory that could hire those workers?

Probably not a wind-turbine factory, because the issue with wind turbines is logistics. The cost of shipping is really critical. The choice of Kansas and Iowa as our two main factories is because they are contiguous to the main areas where wind turbines would be installed.

CFB: When and where might we see a wind farm in Florida?

Based on the wind patterns in Florida, it's unlikely that wind will play a major role. I would say electricity generation in Florida in the future will come more from natural gas and nuclear.

CFB: Some energy experts say wind power is good only when Mother Nature cooperates and is overly expensive as well.

This country needs to be able to take advantage of all the energy resources available. Oil prices are relatively low today; I guess everybody expects that in the long term they will be going up. The critical issue about a wind turbine is that, No.1, the fuel is free and it doesn't generate any carbon. Today there is no price on carbon; in the future, wind will have the advantage in a carbon-neutral economy.

CFB: A core business is building turbines for electric plants powered by natural gas, coal, nuclear. The company claims green progress there, too?

The primary driver of our R&D is to increase the efficiency of electricity generation, meaning you get more energy out of the same amount of fuel. No one can argue from a green perspective that, if you can get more energy out of the same amount of fuel, it's probably a good thing.

CFB: Congress may be closer than ever to passing major laws on renewable energy and global warming. How important are such steps to Siemens?

I think it's pretty well understood now that carbon is one of the greatest challenges the planet faces today as far as greenhouse-gas emissions. From our standpoint, it's critically important that a price signal be given to the market that there is a cost associated with carbon, in order to stimulate the long-term investment necessary to develop the technologies to address that. It's also important that legislation does not cause an economic shock.

Kevin Spear can be reached at or 407-420-5062.

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