To celebrate the inaugural American-made commercial wind turbines coming off the production floor this year, Aeronautica Windpower decided to buck the trend of plain white towers, and show off the Stars and Stripes instead.
“Most people don’t know it, but other than some smaller machines, all wind turbines going up around the US are made overseas. So instead of sending our petro-dollars overseas, we end up sending them our cash and tax credits – and our jobs,” says Shaun Lockett, VP of Sales and Marketing for Aeronautica.
Over an expected lifetime of 25 or more years, each of the 750kW turbines will save the equivalent amount of foreign oil as contained in a line of trucks over 3 miles long, according to Aeronautica. The “Made in America” approach will mean that replacement parts will be readily available from Aeronautica’s New Hampshire-based plant, eliminating the cost and long lead time of ordering parts from outside the US.
Can America really compete with lower priced labor and component prices from Asia, which is where most turbine manufacturing now takes place? “What we pay in increased labor costs here in the U.S. is easily recovered through savings of not transporting these large blades and towers over the ocean,” states Tim Stearns, VP of Operations for Aeronautica. “Shipping can add over 12% to a turbine’s cost. As far as component costs, quality components will always cost more, but in the long run, it’s value we are looking for, and the quality components we use last longer, giving our customers a better value for their dollar,” notes Stearns.
Aeronautica, which is headquartered in Plymouth, MA, is bullish on offering the flag option. Many of its machines will find homes on so-called ‘Community Wind’ projects, where the community as a whole benefits from the renewable energy, and the turbine is a source of pride. Aeronautica’s ‘mid-scale’ commercial and industrial turbines are large enough to produce power economically, yet small enough to be located directly on the sites of many factories, school campuses, shopping centers, and other properties that could generate their own power with the right winds. “These sites don’t need the strongest winds like a large wind farm because they are displacing power at the highest retail prices,” says Brian Kuhn, VP of Product Development and a Founder of Aeronautica.
“In a country that invented the wind farm in California in the 1980s, it is ironic that turbine manufacturing is just now re-opening in the US,” Kuhn says. “For the past 20 years, most manufacturers did not want to locate a plant in the US or concentrate on the US market because wind economics were uncertain and hampered by up and down tax incentives. But as fossil fuel prices continue to rise, environmental concerns deepen, and states continue to improve regulations such as net-metering and feed-in tariffs that help renewable energy, interest in wind energy is now surging,” he adds.
In 2009, during one of the worst recession in recent history, over 10,000 MW of wind power was installed in the US. This represented over 32% of the total new generation facilities built in the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association – the equivalent of more than 15 nuclear reactors.
The company is gearing up to sell its 225 and 750kW turbines across North America. It offers the turbines through local dealers and installers.
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