HOW WIND ENERGY BUILDS ECONOMIES
Listen! That’s not thunder - it’s the sound of opportunity pounding on the U.S. door.
The wind energy industry recently announced it will supply 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030. It supplied about 1% at the end of 2007. That means the wind industry will grow much more than 20-fold in the next quarter century (because 1% in 2030 is going to be significantly more than it is now).
That’s a lot of turbines. Turbines are marvels of mechanical engineering. Building them requires machine shops. To grow more than 20 times over, the industry is going to need a lot of machine shops.
Typically, China is trying to corner the market on turbine parts manufacturing - but guess what? That ain’t gonna happen. Turbines are huge. Shipping them costs. It will cost even more in a carbon-constrained world. It will be much cheaper to manufacture and assemble them near where they are going to be erected. In fact, big European and Japanese wind energy producers building installations in this country are now actively looking for U.S. parts manufacturers.
Dan Radomski, vice president of industry services, Michigan's NextEnergy: "You want to source it as closely to where that (turbine) assembly operation is…"
To grow so much, so fast, the wind industry will need domestic manufacturing facilities in a very big way. Turbines have something like 8000 parts (blades, nacelle housings, rotor hubs, bearings). That’s a LOT of machining.
U.S. Department of Energy: "U.S. companies continue to represent a relatively small share of total turbine and tower materials, and U.S. manufacturers are struggling to keep pace with rising demand."
Meaning: Machine shops struggling in the rust belt and in the wake of the fading U.S. auto industry have the chance to shift to a growth industry.
There’s only one small hitch in the operation.
A minority of recalcitrant Republican fossil fools mired in 1950s thinking continue to prevent Congress from passing vital policy measures that would give wind and other New Energy industries the assurances they need to know there will be solid footing for further U.S. development if they move away from present bases.
Radomski: "It's partly policy; it's partly tax incentives and also partly regulatory issues."
Michigan’s Governor Granholm, knowing her state could really use the economic boost that would come from developing wind and other New Energies, is working hard to overcome local political infighting and push through a state Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Conflicts remain.
Hans Detweiler, manager of state legislation, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): "The problem is…The bill literally requires no new renewable energy use for six years. It's crazy."
No crazier than the obstructive Republican fossil fools in the U.S. Congress, Hans.
Tell Congress to stop the craziness and pass the New Energy incentives at Support Renewable Energy Tax Credits
This work isn't outsourced. (click to enlarge)
Wind energy market not just hot air
Sven Gustafson, May 22, 2008 (Michigan Business Review via MLive)
Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, NextEnergy and Shepherd Advisors;
There are actually an estimated 8000 machine tooled and/or electronic parts. (click to enlarge)
A market diversification opportunity brief from the Technology Center with NextEnergy and Shepherd suggests Michigan manufacturers should shift from dwindling auto industry markets to the booming wind industry.
- The wind industry broke its record for new installations for the 3rd year in a row in 2007.
- The wind industry recently announced it would generate 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030.
Too expensive to haul this stuff over long distances, much less over oceans or borders. (click to enlarge)
- 5,200 new megawatts of wind power electricity generation capacity was built in the U.S. in 2007, compared with Bay City, Michigan’s Karn-Weadock 825-megawatt fossil fuels power plant.
- There are presently ~30 Michigan turbine parts manufacturers.
- The brief reports a wind turbine yearly global market of ~$23 billion and predicts steady growth.
- The U.S. market for new wind energy will average $5 billion/year, 2008 – 2015.
- Citation Corp., based in Novi, Michigan, manufactures heavy-duty auto and truck bearing races and gearbox covers and housings. It is starting to set up for the manufacture of wind turbine parts.
click to enlarge
Greg Etter, director of business development, Citation Corp. (an auto parts manufacturer moving to turbine parts): "It's in its infancy for us…There's a lot more opportunities that we need to pursue because there's a lot more people entering that fray…It's a growing industry and we see a continuing growth, particularly with government subsidies and the renewable portfolio end of the business. So we see in a development stage a continued growth."