As the US transitions to green energies, Xinjiang wind turbines can be trapped in a political storm

Hundreds of megawatts of renewable electricity will soon be supplied to Microsoft by French energy company Engie’s wind turbines at the new Las Lomas wind farm in southwest Texas. Scattered for miles along the Mexican border, their 48 turbines are scheduled to be fully operational in January, helping to move Microsoft closer to its 100% clean energy goal by 2025. When Engie, as well as Microsoft, revealed their partnership last year, they praised it as a gesture of social responsibility: two businesses in the middle of the growing climate crisis are working towards emissions reduction.

According to customs reports, shipping documentation, and corporate documents checked by the South China Morning Post, their Las Lomas Company may end up embroiling them in another issue of a different nature. Shipping documents reveal that wind turbines which are situated at Las Lomas were installed in Xinjiang, a far western China, which is not only abundant in oil and gas, and also in wind and solar power production, by an energy firm partially owned by the government of China, and where Beijing is suspected of arresting and detaining a minimum of 1 million Uyghurs as well as members of several other Muslim minorities in internment camps and subjecting them to forced labor as well as political indoctrination. 

Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology firm, China’s largest producer of wind turbines, best known as Goldwind, also announced this month that it had negotiated a separate agreement with the influential Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation (XPCC), the quasi-military body that operates massive chunks of the economy of the enormous area, and was sanctioned this year by the United States of America Treasury Department for the human rights violation. 

Experts claim that these ties and the sheer assertion that Goldwind is headquartered in Xinjiang can prove problematic for Microsoft as well as Engie, just since they already have distribution networks for several other multinational firms running across the far western China. The Las Lomas wind project, on the one hand, is an example of collective action between the US, Chinese as well as European firms, even as global tensions soar, to minimize carbon emissions and support the atmosphere.

There are businesses whose supply chains travel through a region of China where the international criticism has been prevalent, such as a UN High Commission, which is situated in Geneva that is said to be taking place there over human rights abuses. Olga Torres, managing director of Torres Law that deals in trade and national law, stated, “If anyone comes to me and says, ‘I’m buying something from this area,’ I’m advising them that you can check your distribution network and assess possible risks, so we need to be sure that you don’t have slave labour in the distribution chain because [United States government is] going to be looking at it.”

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