Windflow brushes off nuclear concern

TAMLYN STEWART AND KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2012

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Windflow Technology's boss is batting away any unease about his company's hook up with a United States giant which makes nuclear submarines, saying it is like turning military weapons to peacetime products.

This week the small, struggling Christchurch turbine manufacturer disclosed a 10-year licensing agreement with General Dynamics SATCOM, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, which manufactures weapons, military vehicles and military communications systems.

Windflow is strapped for cash and needs new customers if it is to survive.

 Windflow chief executive Geoff Henderson said the company had been very well aware that General Dynamics was a defence contractor when it entered into the licensing deal.

"We see it as, to the extent that that is the case, we see the move to windpower as being akin to 'swords to ploughshares'. The manufacture of weapons of war being converted into manufacturers' peace-time implements,'' he said.

"So of course we're mindful of that, but we see that as being a way of resolving that issue, I suppose.''

Henderson said he had not received any criticisms from shareholders about the deal, and had actually received  some congratulations.

Asked whether the deal would sit well with green-leaning or pacifist shareholders, Henderson replied there was an argument that a strong United States in the  last 60 or 70 years had ensured the longest period of peace the planet had known and helped avoid the outbreak of wars.

The military was a major purchaser in the United States, he said.

"I think if we did a deal with any major US manufacturer they would probably have some relation with US defence.''

GD as a company was one of the top 100 companies in the United States, he said, and ranking 86 on the Fortune 500 list.

"As a partner we're pleased and honoured to have the association.''

Windflow was "delighted'' GD was entering the wind business, and said the agreement was a fantastic endorsement of Windflow's technology.

Windflow chairman Heugh Kelly said Windflow saw General Dynamics as a highly competent partner to develop the turbine because of its technological, manufacturing and marketing capability and Windflow had not received support in New Zealand.

"So what do you do? You go overseas and you look to maybe a slightly more sophisticated market which appreciates what we have developed.

"But maybe now that it has been endorsed by other people, maybe there will be a slightly different attitude to it in New Zealand. It's a possibility.''

Peace-loving Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown is unconcerned that a company in which she holds shares has this new bedfellowin the form of US military giant General Dynamics.

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Alastair Nicholson and Celia Wade-Brown are among the top 20 shareholders of Windflow Technology, with 84,836 shares (0.54 per cent), according to Windflow's most recent annual report.

General Dynamics SATCOM will use Windflow's technology to manufacture turbines for sale in North and South America, Africa, US territories and military bases worldwide. General Dynamics has a wholly-owned subsidiary, General Dynamics Electric Boat that makes nuclear submarines.

In December last year General Dynamics Electric Boat, christened the 'Mississippi', described as "the US Navy's newest and most advanced nuclear attack submarine''. It is equipped to "wage multi-dimensional warfare around the globe''.

Wade-Brown was unaware of the licensing deal until asked about it by Fairfax.

While she would never buy shares in a company that made nuclear armaments, she had no intention of selling her Windflow shares, she said.

Regardless of what the companies did, they had to buy energy of some sort, and it was encouraging that they were using renewable energy in the form of wind, she said.

"It's good for Windflow. It's a New Zealand company and I can't see it's making the slightest bit of difference as to whether more or less nuclear armaments are being made.''

She had never asked where the energy provided by Windflow turbines was used, and her focus was on how the energy was generated  not what it was used for, she said.

"The energy that is sold from wind farms will go to the same wide range of organisations as the energy that's made by coal burning generators or nuclear energy  The question is how the energy's generated.''

- The Dominion Post

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