Nordex USA, the U.S. subsidiary of a German wind turbine manufacturer, broke ground on a new plant in Jonesboro, Ark. in July was only the latest in a growing list of signs that wind energy manufacturing is setting up shop in the U.S

Nordex says assembly at the Arkansas plant will

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begin in the second half of 2010, operating at full scale by 2012 with

an annual production capacity of 300 turbines, or 750 megawatts.

The

U.S. Energy Department released a report last month saying “Soaring

demand for wind has spurred expansion of wind turbine manufacturing in

the U.S. As a result of this continued expansion, the American Wind

Energy Association estimates that the share of domestically

manufactured wind turbine components has grown from less than 30% in

2005 to roughly 50% in 2008, and that roughly 8,400 new domestic

manufacturing jobs were added in the wind sector in 2008 alone.”

Experts

say the wind energy manufacturing industry is a good one for the U.S.

supply chain because wind turbine manufacturing and assembly relies

heavily on locally sourced parts than many current manufacturing

industries.

According to a Reuters

report, “Local sourcing makes sense for wind turbine production,

because of the high number of components needed. The main components

are bulky, so transportation can add a huge chunk to the cost.”

Jeff Anthony, director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association, agrees. Anthony tells Purchasing,

“As compared to the electronics industry, the size and weight of the

components involved in this industry are very significant and the

transportation cost is much higher. So when international players are

locating a factory in the U.S., one of the major considerations is the

proximity to a suitable supply base.”

Also,

OEMs in the wind energy market also want to be near their end-market as

well, he says, which is a good thing for suppliers in the 28 states

that have passed laws requiring utilities to have a certain percentage

come from renewable energy.

Anthony says

there really isn’t a standard supply chain model in the wind energy

industry today. While one OEM tends to make more of the individual

components, others tend to outsource more and focus more on certain

components and assembly.

“It still

presents a variety of opportunities for suppliers in the U.S. to work

with all of the OEMs building up their infrastructure in this country,”

Anthony says. “Of the top 10 wind turbine manufacturers globally, only

two are based in the U.S.”

According to

the AWEA, there are more than 8,000 components that make up a finished

wind turbine in the tower, rotors, nacelle, foundation and other

sections. And with demand for wind turbines up, the manufacturing

process is getting a much closer look lately. Atlantic Wind & Solar

claims to be designing what could be the first automated fabrication

process for the manufacture of wind turbines.

Atlantic

Wind & Solar hopes to replicate an automotive assembly line for

turbines, which could be capable of manufacturing up to one complete

(1.5 Mw) wind turbine per hour or an estimated 2,080 windmills per year.

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