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Wind Turbine Plant Near Detroit to Hire 250 — PLUS It’s Braggin’ Time For Wind!
Joe Romm, 13 Apr 09
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Back in February, David Bradish, who blogs at NuclearNotes, commented on my post “Nuclear meltdown in Finland“:

How about you let us know when wind power in the U.S. actually generates one percent of the electricity in the country? Then I would say you could start bragging.

I knew we had already broken one percent but wanted to wait until we had EIA’s full electricity data for 2008, which you can find here:

Total Generation 2008: 4,114,880 Thousand Megawatthours

Wind Generation 2008: 52,017 Thousand Megawatthours

So wind was about 1.25% of U.S. electricity in 2008 — higher really now, since that averages over many months during which the record wind construction last year was taking place (see “U.S. wind energy grows by record 8,300 MW“).

So I guess it is time to start bragging.

Interestingly, EIA reports that last year, wind generation soared while coal and natural gas dropped:

The drop in coal-fired generation was the largest absolute fuel-specific decline from December 2007 to December 2008 as it fell by 5,198 thousand megawatthours, or 3.0 percent…. Natural gas-fired generation was down by 4.4 percent and was second only to coal-fired generation in its contribution to the national drop in net generation, as it was down by 2,907 thousand megawatthours from the December 2007 total…. Net generation from wind sources was 67.2 percent higher than it had been in December 2007.

In Obama’s first term, wind is likely to at least double its production, and be a large fraction of whatever growth in demand their is given the economic slowdown and Obama’s big push on energy efficiency.

I noted a couple of days that the severe downturn and credit crunch hit all capital-intensive energy investments hard, but the stimulus package has started to turn things around — see Stimulus and venture capital sow seeds for cleantech industry’s “revival.” As E&E News PM (subs. req’d) put it Monday:

In a sign the federal stimulus might be reawakening the clean energy industry, General Electric’s energy investment division announced two big capital injections today into wind project developers and manufacturers.

GE Energy Financial Services said it would pump $200 million into three wind farms being built by Noble Environmental Power in Clinton, Franklin and Wyoming counties. The project, backed by a consortium of 10 foreign and domestic financial firms, is expected to generate 330 megawatts — enough electricity to power 110,000 households….

Today’s news comes after GE’s announcement last week of expanded wind activity.

Last Thursday, project developer Invenergy Wind announced a deal in which GE Energy will supply 74 1.5-megawatt wind turbines to expand the Grand Ridge wind farm in LaSalle County, Ill. That development should generate 110 megawatts.

Finally, while the news is filled with endless announcements of job cuts in almost every sector, it’s worth excerpting today’s Detroit News story, “Wind turbine plant in Novi to hire 250“:

A wind turbine assembly plant opening later this year in Novi could give the region’s sputtering economy a much-needed lift by creating about 250 manufacturing jobs.

Global Wind Systems Inc. will begin hiring skilled assembly line tradespeople as soon as May to staff the new facility — Michigan’s first manufacturer of delivery-ready, large-scale wind turbines.

The 74-ton turbines that will roll off the plant’s assembly line will be used by utility companies and wind farm developers for generating commercial wind power.

“We’re the guys that put together the final assembly of these turbines and complete the customer care for the people that consume our products in the field,” said Chris Long, founder and CEO for Global Wind Systems.

The alternative energy company, which now has about 20 employees, was founded in September and is investing $32 million to establish the plant, which will be an original equipment manufacturer or OEM for wind turbines.

The company received $7.3 million in tax credits from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority in December to create 256 direct jobs over six years. Long said the company likely will grow well beyond that number within two years — to more than 400 employees — and hopes to source components for its 1.5 megawatt turbines to in-state suppliers, a move that could support thousands of additional manufacturing jobs.

Wind equipment manufacturing is a fledgling industry in Michigan. Last year a new state mandate gave the industry a boost requiring Michigan utilities to generate at least 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biomass fuels, by 2015.

More than two dozen companies have sprung up or diversified into wind parts manufacturing, helping to establish a supply chain in Michigan that will feed components to assembly plants, like the one being built by Global Wind Systems. The renewable energy mandate has prompted utility companies such as DTE Energy Corp. in Detroit to invest heavily into wind power generation, as well.

DTE, for instance, has put 56,000 acres of land in easements for constructing Michigan wind farms, company officials said.

State leaders say Michigan’s technological know-how and manufacturing expertise for milling large volumes of precision parts make it ideal for building and assembling wind energy equipment.

“We’re used to building and finishing various metal parts for the auto industry. Wind turbines need gear boxes and ball bearings, too,” said John Sarver, chairman of the Michigan Wind Working Group, a part of the state’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth….

Asked whether the openings at the assembly plant would be well-suited for displaced autoworkers, Long replied: “Absolutely.”

Finally, we have the wind at our backs!

this piece originally appeared on Climate Progress

photo credit: flickr/therussiansarehere, Creative Commons License.

related posts: New Research Ranks Top Renewable Energy Options

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