Winds blow hot and cold

Source: Thomas Content • Journal Sentinel • Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012

 Broadwind Energy’s Manitowoc plant built the towers for the Shirley wind farm that opened last year south of Green 

The boom-and-bust cycle of the renewable energy sector was on display Thursday.

Broadwind Energy Inc. said Thursday it was awarded a $23 million order for wind turbine towers that will be made in Manitowoc.

The Naperville, Ill., clean-technology firm said the order was the company’s first from a leading U.S. wind turbine manufacturer, and the towers produced will be erected at a variety of domestic wind power projects.

“This fits with our strategy to further diversify our customer base,” said Peter Duprey, Broadwind president and chief executive, in a statement.

Also Thursday, the world’s largest maker of wind turbines – Vestas Wind Systems – announced layoffs, citing a slow economy, competition from Chinese manufacturers and uncertainty in the direction of U.S. energy policy.

Broadwind’s Manitowoc factory, which builds towers up to 500 feet tall, was formerly known as Tower Tech. It built the towers for the state’s two newest wind power farms, Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County and the Shirley wind project south of Green Bay.

The company said fourth-quarter orders were strong in all of its businesses, including gearing, towers and services for wind power farms, adding that Broadwind is “well positioned for revenue growth in 2012.”

Shares of Broadwind closed up 5 cents, or 7%, at 72 cents a share. The company is expected to report its 2011 results in March.

In Denmark, Vestas Wind Systems said it is cutting more than 2,000 jobs worldwide and said 1,600 more jobs in the United States could be cut if Congress doesn’t renew a wind power tax credit.

“Manufacturers like Vestas have invested billions of dollars a year in the U.S. economy, and wind energy has become one of the fastest-growing sources of new American manufacturing jobs,” Denise Bode, head of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement Thursday.

Worldwide investment in clean energy rose 5% last year to $260 billion, with the United States leading the way, according to an analysis released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Spending in the U.S. rose by a third to $55.9 billion, while renewable energy investment in China rose 1%, to $47.4 billion.

On Friday, wind power and renewable energy supporters will meet at a policy summit in Madison to discuss ways to push economic development policies that encourage more renewable energy.

“There are too many jobs and careers and other benefits in the balance,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin, which is sponsoring the forum. The event was organized in response to moves by the Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and the Legislature to slow wind farm development.

Vickerman cited the move by private companies to deploy renewable energy as a way to mitigate future utility price increases to pay for the cleanup of aging coal-fired power plants.

“There’s a more concerted effort to source renewable energy supply from within the state and from the local community,” he said. “It’s less expensive that way.”

Examples include the state’s largest solar project at Epic Systems Corp.’s headquarters in Verona. Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System broke ground last fall on a small wind project near La Crosse, while S.C. Johnson & Son has won approval for a small wind project in Racine County.