TECO-Westinghouse breezes into wind turbine industry

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Clean energy is produced by thousands of wind turbines across the open spaces of West Texas. In a state that leads the nation in wind energy generation, the wind turbines in Texas are not made locally, and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company would like that t

While its first large energy project is abroad, TECO-Westinghouse is eyeing the Texas market, which accounted for more than half of the 45 percent wind-industry growth nationwide in 2007, according to the State Energy Conservation Office. Legislators such as U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-District 31, are lobbying on TECO-Westinghouse’s behalf to create incentives for buying wind turbines made in Texas.

“Judge Carter is well-versed on what TECO-Westinghouse is trying to do with the wind turbines, and we were looking at some of the [federal government] stimulus language, in terms of expansion of green power,” said John Stone, Carter’s press secretary. “We wanted to get some language in there that encourages the use of U.S.-manufactured turbines and equipment for any new energy applications, which would, of course, fall right into TECO-Westinghouse wind turbines.”

Carter is still investigating whether he will be allowed to put an amendment in the stimulus language, but if he is unsuccessful, he plans to push for specific energy legislation that encourages the purchase of wind turbines manufactured in Texas.

“Basically, we are looking into every opportunity out there to promote the use of U.S.-produced technology for new alternate energy resources like the wind turbines,” Stone said. “That’s really a perfect example, if we could encourage that.”

Strategic location

Selecting Round Rock as its home nearly 40 years ago was a strategic decision for Westinghouse. The location was originally chosen for its access to IH 35 and the railroad tracks that run behind the facility.

“Round Rock is a prime location for the type of work we do because of the size of materials we ship,” said Ron Heine, TECO-Westinghouse wind energy program manager. “Logistics is extremely important to us, and we’re located right off IH 35 — one of the main corridors for the whole country.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico removed most barriers to trade and investment between the three countries.

“Because of NAFTA and the free trade, we can ship motors to Canada where we have a sister office, and we also now have a subsidiary office in Mexico,” said Lana DeLeon, TECO-Westinghouse marketing representative. “For us, the transportation factor is a huge thing. We use the port of Houston for most of our major shipments across the ocean.”

Changes over time

Westinghouse has changed its company name and the products it manufactures through the years, but its core competency has remained designing and manufacturing industrial motors.

In the 1990s, Taiwanese TECO Electric and Machinery Co. bought Westinghouse and later renamed it TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company.

More than 400 TECO-Westinghouse manufacturing, engineering, sales and marketing employees work at the Round Rock site, which spans 114 acres, having recently added 50 employees to support the new wind turbine business. More manufacturing and engineering staff are expected to be hired as TECO-Westinghouse’s wind energy business expands.

“As we ramp up and grow, we should be developing more of an employee base,” Heine said. “Our long-term prospects on the wind side of the business look good.”

Heine said the wind energy market opportunity is huge, and as TECO-Westinghouse grows its wind turbine business, he expects to be assembling and shipping one wind turbine per eight-hour shift.

Success enables opportunity

Heine said in the past three or four years, TECO-Westinghouse’s core business customers in the petrochemical, utilities, mining and government industries had record years, giving TECO-Westinghouse the capital it needed to get into a new market.

“We made a good-sized investment in developing the wind business, and our core business doing so well enabled us to do that,” he said.

As the wind energy industry gained momentum, TECO-Westinghouse began exploring the possibility of designing and manufacturing the mechanical components of the wind turbines.

“Our core strength is rotating equipment, so we were looking at opportunities to get into the wind industry because it has really grown over the past five years,” Heine said. “So, we were looking at getting into the wind generator part, and as we were working with different turbine manufacturers, we came across DeWind.”

Founded in Germany and headquartered in California, DeWind designs and builds wind turbines, but needed a U.S. manufacturer. TECO-Westinghouse was looking to partner with a company that already had designs for wind turbines in hand so it could get into the wind industry as soon as possible. The two companies entered into a 10-year commercial manufacturing agreement in 2008.

Though DeWind designed and sold the turbines for the wind generation project in Chile and TECO-Westinghouse is assembling them, TECO-Westinghouse engineers have also created wind turbine generator designs for use in various turbine applications.

“We hope to be supplying our own generators to DeWind in 2009,” Heine said. “Our plan is to exponentially grow our wind turbine business.”

Wind energy

The U.S. wind industry grew by 45 percent in 2007, over half of which was contributed by wind turbines in Texas. Texas is the leading wind state in the U.S., accounting for close to one-third of the nation’s total installed wind capacity.

TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company is the only wind turbine manufacturer in Texas. It shipped its first multiunit order to Chile in December.

Source: State Energy Conservation Office, www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us

Impact on Round Rock

Since 1972, when Westinghouse built its facility on more than 3,500 acres off IH 35 near the edge of Round Rock’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the company has evolved from a manufacturer of the once-popular gas turbines to a maker of electric motors and generators for large, industrial pumps, fans, compressors and other rugged machinery. Westinghouse Motor Company was one of Round Rock’s first major businesses, employing 800 workers in the 1970s when the city’s population was only about 2,800. Other businesses soon followed, including McNeil Laboratories, Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, Tellabs Texas and Du Pont Tau Laboratories. Westinghouse invested in the city’s water and sewer system, donating land to the City of Round Rock for a wastewater treatment plant near the factory.

Joe Vining, senior vice president of economic development for the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce, remembers TECO-Westinghouse’s early days; he was the City of Round Rock planning director for 25 years before going to work at the chamber.

“It had a huge impact on the community because it was the largest employer,” Vining said. “We didn’t get the large employers like the BJ Tools guys, Tellabs and McNeil Labs until later in the 1970s. They were really our first big industrial company.”

The company’s location was important to Round Rock because of its location at the north end of town.

“It helped us establish our industrial corridor along the interstate,” Vining said. “Later on, we annexed out the interstate and picked them up.”

TECO-Westinghouse timeline

  • 1972: Westinghouse Electric Corporation opened a large gas turbine manufacturing facility in Round Rock.

  • 1974-76: Westinghouse Electric Corporation shut down its gas turbine plant and reopened it as the company’s Heavy Industry Motor Division.

  • 1988: TECO Electric & Machinery Co. in Taiwan invested in Westinghouse Electric Corporation and changed the company’s name to Westinghouse Motor Company. Westinghouse retained 75% ownership of the company.

  • 1995-97: TECO bought 100% equity in Westinghouse Motor Company, which became TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company.

  • 1998: TECO-Westinghouse acquired TECO’s American subsidiary, TECO American.

  • 2006: TECO-Westinghouse entered into a cooperative agreement with DeWind to produce wind turbines.

  • 2007: TECO-Westinghouse shipped its first wind turbine to Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, Texas, for its Wind Turbine Technician Program.

  • 2008: TECO-Westinghouse signed a 10-year commercial manufacturing agreement with DeWind and in December, shipped its first multiunit wind turbine project.

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