FT. MADISON, IA---It must be a nice feeling to be able to invest in a US business knowing your product has been ordered and booked into 2010. That was the feeling generated at Siemens’ dedication ceremony of its new wind turbine blade manufacturing facility in Ft. Madison on September 21, 2007.
“Siemens Wind Power ranks #2 in the U.S. market and #1 worldwide in the offshore wind market,” Randy Zwirn, CEO of Siemens Power Generation told World-Generation at a press briefing before the dedication ceremony and plant tour. Siemens invested over $28 million for the 126-acre Ft. Madison site with 311,000 square feet of buildings.
Ft. Madison joins three other Siemens facilities in Denmark where Siemens Wind Power started in December 2004 when it acquired Bonus Energy. Siemens also acquired AN Wind Energie Gmb H, opened a new blade factory site at Engesvang in Denmark in 2006 and expanded Danish facilities in Brande and Aalberg.
“Installations have tripled under Siemens Wind Power which now employs over 3,200 personnel including over 400 in the US,” Andreas Nauen, CEO of Siemens Wind Power, told World-Gen at the press briefing. “Denmark assigned 25 staff to get this plant up and running.” While most have returned to Denmark, an exchange program has continued where six to eight US personnel are trained for periods up to two months. Supervisors went first followed by specialists.
Both Denmark and Ft. Madison are operating with three shifts at the blade facilities, Nauen confirmed. Ft. Madison is producing 12 blades a week until a fourth mold is put into operation to reach 16 blades a week in October, 2007.
The mold preparation and fabrication for the blades use Siemens proprietary IntegralBlade manufacturing process. The blades are cast in one piece leaving no weak points at glue joints, no water penetration and excellent lightning protection. The blades are made of fiberglass reinforced epoxy, balsa wood and paint. Ft. Madison is only manufacturing the 148 foot long, 12-ton blade for the 2.3 megawatt wind turbine. Blades usually last 20 plus years.
The nacelle is assembled in Denmark for the world market. Major components assembled include a cast-iron rotor hub, main shaft of alloy steel, gear-box, generstar, yaw motors and the NetConverter power system. The nacelle weighs 82 tons. Zwirn said it was unclear whether or not nacelles would be assembled in the US. “Our vision is to have a global supply chain for US, Europe and Asia, and we are looking at the lowest cost solution. We haven’t announced our plans for Asia yet, but we see it as a major market as well as a sourcing and manufacturing market.”
“The US still has a lot of good sites on land that are permittable for wind generation,” Zwirn shared. “And the cost of doing wind generation on land is still more attractive than going offshore.” Offshore has much higher infrastructure costs, higher maintenance due to wear and tear from rough, salty conditions.” Nauen added that it might be “early now to move offshore in the US.”
Siemens Wind Power has secured 550 megawatts of generation orders so far in 2007, almost equaling last year’s orders of 570 megawatts. Siemens will supply Babcock and Brown 44, 2.3 wind turbines for their South Trent wind farm and 35, 2.3 wind turbines for their Sweetwater 5 farm. Also in Texas, AES ordered 74, 2.3 wind turbines for its Buffalo Gap 3 project and Airtricity ordered 55,2.3 turbines for their Champion project.
Siemens is using its Houston hub to service wind accounts and has opened service centers closer to the sites in Texas. Over 140 personnel are assigned for service and installations of the 2.3-mw wind turbines across the country.
Zwirn sees another market developing in Texas. “We’re looking at putting batteries for energy storage with the towers and even putting batteries on the back of eighteen wheelers,” he said, “as a way to capture the wind blowing at night.” He envisions storing six to eight megawatt hours by running the 2.3-megawatt wind turbines for three hours at night.
The ceremony began with a plant tour of the existing building that once was a trucking facility. A new 50,000 square foot building was erected for finishing and painting the blades.
Guests of honor at the ceremony included Lt. Governor Patty Judge who was introduced by Randy Zwirn. Barry Nicholls, Vice President of Sales-Americas of Siemens Power Generation, introduced customers who account for over $2 billion in wind orders and include: Hunter Armistead from Babcock & Brown, Brian Evans and Craig Mataczynski of Renewable Energy Systems, Tom Budler and Kevin Dodson with MidAmerican Energy Company, Tom Thomas with AES, Earl Gjelde with Summit Power, and Mike O’Sullivan and Bob McGrath with FPL.