Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Michigan Lands Its First Large Wind Turbine Assembly Plant

Yeah baby! More details will be announced later today, but the Freep has the story for us now.

In a major boost for Michigan's emerging wind-energy industry, Gov. Jennifer Granholm plans to announce today that the state has attracted its first large wind turbine assembly plant.

Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vt., intends to use a facility in Saginaw to manufacture its next-generation large wind turbines, expected to be the first ones built in the U.S. using 100% American-made parts. Plans call for sourcing as many parts as possible from Michigan companies.

100% American. That's amazing. With former auto parts manufacturers looking to diversify their product lines, a company like this will be just the ticket for them to produce demand for their goods. Northern already has a deal to supply 13 turbines to a wind farm in Escanaba, and they are working on next-generation technology as we speak.

Northern Power said its large turbines use a design and technology that make them more efficient, quieter and less costly to operate than what is on the market today. Each of these turbines can generate 2.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,200 homes.

Working with Saginaw-based Merrill Technologies Group, Northern Power has already produced three of the turbines, one of which was bought by DTE Energy, according to Andy Levin, acting director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth.

During the recession, new wind farms were put on hold as investors had a hard time coming up with the money to move these projects. Now that we are starting to see recovery, chances are it is going to pick up again in a big way. Do we need a federal RPS? Maybe not. States are taking the initiative on their own.

The investment in Michigan comes at a tough time for the U.S. wind-energy industry. In the first nine months of this year, new wind project installations have dropped 72% from last year's record levels because of the economy and other factors.

But in the long run, companies such as Northern Power and state officials say they believe the underdeveloped U.S. wind-energy market holds enormous potential for both profits and new jobs. Although the federal government has yet to enact policies that would foster the industry's growth, many states are pushing ahead with their own plans. For instance, Michigan requires that at least 10% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2015, which is expected to spur demand for more than 1,000 new wind turbines.

Great news. Maybe we will make it through the storm after all...

UPDATE: MiTech/Gongwer has a more detailed look at the deal.