A wind tower manufacturer relatively new on the scene is not only up and running, it’s going full steam—and in many ways, the company’s story is emblematic of the entire U.S. wind energy industry.
Ventower Industries, which during the last few years has been methodically putting together the pieces to become a major tower producer for the wind industry, has orders in the books that will put its Monroe, Mich., plant at virtually full capacity for the remainder of 2013, the company said. In fact, by the end of the summer, the company will have doubled the number of people on its payroll compared to the fourth quarter of last year, said Vice President Scott Viciana.
That’s great news for a state renowned for its manufacturing muscle, yet one that has lost thousands of factory jobs in recent years. In that sense, Ventower mirrors its own industry—wind energy—which is known for its ability to create manufacturing jobs.
“We’re pretty much booked solid for the year,” Mr. Viciana said, adding that he “always hates to say that,” given such potential developments as increases in capacity and the placement of small orders.
The 2013 orders come primarily from one major turbine manufacturer, with the plan being for all units to be shipped by the end of the year. Meanwhile, productive discussions are under way with multiple original equipment manufacturers to fill the books for 2014 as well. Mr. Viciana said that he agrees with what appears to be an industry consensus that 2014 will be a bigger year for the industry than 2013: “We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to continue this momentum through next year."
Mr. Viciana is very clear when speaking of what’s driving the demand. Ventower’s experience, in fact, reflects that of an entire industry during the last several months. At this time last year, the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy was set to expire at the end of 2012, and the industry’s supply chain had already begun to slow. Ventower, seeking its first major order to get its brand-new facility humming, had begun to eye the overseas market.
Then came the PTC extension on January 1. “With the PTC extension being ironed out, we were really able to switch gears and focus on domestic projects,” Mr. Viciana said.
Thus, again, the Ventower story is emblematic of the industry—at this time last year, at the present time, and going forward into 2014.
Two other important market drivers for the company also mirror the experience of the broader industry. State renewable energy targets and the industry’s ever-improving technology are both having a tangible impact on Ventower’s business, Mr. Viciana said. Regarding the latter, taller towers and other technology improvements have opened up the opportunity to develop projects in places that don’t necessarily have the best wind resources—a story AWEA has told many times, most recently in its Annual Market Report.
Yet again, Ventower’s experience reflects the industry trend. Mr. Viciana said that opportunities are better than ever to develop projects in his company’s region—that is, Michigan and other nearby states such as Indiana and Ohio—and in fact the Ventower orders in place are for projects in that region. With the combination of state and federal policy coupled with cutting-edge technology that has brought down the cost of wind, “This region is really open for business,” he said.
WINDPOWER 2013 Update: Large turbine vendors see need for policy certainty, fairness, May 10, 2013
WINDPOWER 2013 Update: Analysts see future market of 4-8 GW/year in U.S., May 7, 2013
E.U. wind power now 7 percent, but industry challenged in 2013, February 11, 2013
It's official: U.S. wind energy blew away old record for installations in 2012, January 31, 2013
Turbine makers' outlook: Strong 2012, tough 2013, long-term optimism, June 21, 2012
Skeptical about renewable energy predictions? You should be., June 20, 2012
WINDPOWER 2012 Update: U.S. lags behind China in clean energy technology race, June 5, 2012
Wind technology advancing rapidly, challenges remain, June 4, 2012
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Global wind power market expected to more than double in next five years, April 17, 2012
Wind power drives strong interest in U.S. renewable electricity generation, April 17, 2012
AWEA Annual Market Report underscores need for PTC extension, April 13, 2012
WINDPOWER report: U.S. wind market near-term prospects clouded by natural gas; policy key, May 24, 2011