|By DOUG SCHMITZ
AMANA, Iowa — When a German company announced plans last month to locate its first U.S. turbine blade plant in eastern Iowa, the landmark decision catapulted the state one step closer to becoming the nation’s top wind energy producer, according to one expert. /p>
“An investment in Iowa by Siemens AG to build a wind blade manufacturing facility would have a positive effect on Iowa’s developing industry,” said Dennis Harding, business services administrator for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), who spoke on wind energy at the 2006 Farm Progress Show in Amana, Iowa last Wednesday.
“Not only will it create jobs and add to the local economy, but it will help set the stage for establishing Iowa as a leader in wind energy development,” he said about the Fort Madison, Iowa facility, which would be established in an existing 224,000-square-foot building complex on nearly 127 acres in Lee County.
Under a new purchase agreement, Siemens Power Generation, Inc., a unit of Siemens AG, would allow the Munich, Germany-based manufacturer to meet the strong U.S. demand for wind power generators in the future.
“This will be Siemens’ first wind turbine production facility in the U.S. and will further expand the capacities of our worldwide manufacturing network,” said Randy Zwirn, president and CEO of Siemens Power Generation.
The Iowa Economic Development Board approved direct assistance from the Iowa Economic Development Set-Aside program and tax incentives from the High Quality Jobs Creation program as part of the agreement to locate the project in the state.
Zwirn said the state of Iowa, Lee County and the city of Fort Madison pooled resources to provide an attractive incentive package to assist with the company’s start-up effort, which is expected to create an estimated 250 jobs.
In addition, the new plant would be upgraded and expanded to meet the needs of the company’s wind turbine business, with the first blades to be manufactured for the company’s 2.3-MW wind turbines, which incorporate the Siemens-patented IntegralBlade technology.
With this technology, Zwirn said the series production of rotor blades for wind turbines would be cast in one piece in a single step from glass-fiber-reinforced epoxy resin in a closed, environmentally compatible process and is scheduled to start in early 2007.
“Since the initial acquisition of Bonus Energy A/S in 2004, we expanded our existing blade plant in Aalborg, Denmark, opened an additional factory in Denmark, and now this is another important step in our strategy to build our global presence in the wind energy business, and serve growing markets,” he said.
Due the site’s close proximity to water, rail and road transportation options, and its central location in the U.S., Zwirn said the plant’s locale, a Mississippi River community located 135 miles southeast of Des Moines, is ideal for wind turbine blade manufacturing where logistics are critically important due to the massive size of the blades.
Currently, Iowa ranks third in electrical generation from wind among the states in the U.S. and is listed as the 10th windiest state in the nation, with more than 250 wind turbines that were installed last year.
“Our state lies in the center of the largest wind generation region in the U.S., and therefore we’re uniquely positioned to serve this promising market,” said Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. “As a leader in alternative energy production, Iowans understand the enormous opportunities this announcement represents, and we look forward to adding Siemens wind turbine technology to our sources of renewable, clean power.”
With the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of obtaining 6 percent of U.S. electricity from wind by 2020 and the growing public demand for clean energy, it is expected that wind energy would contribute an increasing amount of the nation’s energy supply.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate Finance Committee chair who authored the wind energy tax credit, said the move would position Iowa to increase the renewable power generation sources in the U.S. in the future.
“With this new Siemens facility, Iowa will be at the epicenter of supplying clean, alternative energy sources,” he said.
Having more than 25 years of experience in the development and installation of power projects, Harding said Siemens had picked Iowa for another specific reason.
“It is a good thing to have an industry leader choosing to locate in Iowa, especially in a growth industry,” he said. “Hopefully, other wind power companies will join Siemens and Clipper Wind (Cedar Rapids), and choose Iowa as a place to grow their businesses.”
Siemens plans to immediately recruit management, administrative and technical support personnel, which would double Siemens’ existing employment base in Iowa, Zwirn said.
According to the American Wind Energy Assoc. (AWEA), California, Texas, Iowa and Minnesota are the four states leading the nation in current wind energy capacity.
The AWEA added that the U.S. had already passed the 10,000-megawatt mark in installed wind turbine capacity, which projected that by the end of 2007, that number would reach 15,000 megawatts - enough to power 3.8 million typical American homes.
This farm news was published in the Sept. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.