USA - Windmill parts in big demand

Local machine companies catch the wave

A resurgence in the U.S. market for wind turbines is giving a lift to a couple of longtime Greater Cincinnati manufacturers. Magna Machine Co., a 50-plus-year-old metal cutting shop in Forest Park, and Cast-Fab Technologies, an almost century-old metal foundry in Oakley, are seeing significant increases in business from windmill makers rushing to find vendors to supply components. A combination of higher energy prices and a three-year extension of federal tax credits for wind-turbine installations is driving U.S. wind-turbine production to record highs, said Godfrey Chua, director of research for Emerging Energy Research of Cambridge, Mass. Last year, an estimated 2,400 megawatts of new wind-turbine capacity was installed in the United States, topping the previous record of 1,700 megawatts in 2001, he said. This year, 3,400 megawatts is expected to be installed, he said. Unlike old-fashioned farm windmills, wind turbines are assembled into "wind farms,'' collections of turbines placed in open fields, or in some cases offshore on abandoned drilling rigs, to supplement electricity generated by coal, gas and oil and delivered to homes and businesses via a distribution network.

With the rising cost of oil and natural gas, alternative energy sources such as wind turbines and solar-powered cells that were considered too expensive are suddenly more affordable. The increase in generation capacity is spurring demand for casting makers and other vendors to supply components, Chua said. Magna, which specializes in milling, drilling and boring parts weighing up to 80,000 pounds, has won a multimillion-dollar contract, the largest in its history, to machine a number of components for massive 2.5-megawatt wind turbines designed by a West Coast windmill manufacturer. These three-blade turbines can generate enough electricity to power up to 1,000 homes. They weigh more than 100 tons and sit 250 feet in the air. Magna's initial $2.7 million order includes finishing up to 100 37,000-pound hubs - 10-foot-tall ductile iron domes that hold the fiberglass windmill blades - as well as other large and small components. Magna says a confidentiality agreement prevents it from disclosing the purchaser.
Online Editorial www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
USA, wind energy, wind turbine, wind power, renewable energy, wind farm, rotorblade, offshore, onshore

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