Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rockford Berge Forms to Build Wind Farms in Michigan

Major announcement out of the Wild West of Michigan today - Rockford Construction is pairing up with Spanish logistics giant Berge Logistica Energetica to form a company to facilitate the construction of wind farms in Michigan. Rockford Berge will provide "a key component of the infrastructure and expertise required to build on the state's modest start in creating banks of huge electricity-generating windmills" by combining both the physical construction of a farm with the assembly of the turbines themselves.

First of all, let's get the "told you so" out of the way: If you pass the RPS, they will come.

The partnership was, at least in part, driven by a 2008 law that requires 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. Laws limiting carbon emissions also are expected to drive up demand for renewable energy.

Sure glad we did that! Now comes the hard part of getting all the pieces manufactured. As more auto suppliers are looking to diversify their customer base and product lines, something like this will start to drive demand. Birgit Klohs, of West Michigan economic development group The Right Place, will be speaking in Berlin at a conference on alternative energy, and plans on using Rockford Berge to demonstrate that we are serious about attracting this kind of investment to the state. Jobs will surely follow.

"We're filling a very, very big part of the supply chain here in the Midwest; that's the critical piece," Klohs said. "This is a kind of company we don't have here -- a world-class company that is a key player in the development of the wind turbine industry in the Midwest."

The company isn't expected to generate a bonanza of new jobs right away. But Klohs said the region's manufacturing expertise will put many companies in a position to win contracts to produce parts as the demand expands.

Opportunity knocks. Even with the slow down in the economy, alternative energy projects such as this are still going forward, and will surely increase if a renewable standard is passed at the national level. Hope that Michigan companies start to make the switch over to producing these parts - we don't want Ohio to keep beating us, right?