Photo of Pantex Wind Farm via Flickr user National Nuclear Security Administration with a Creative Commons license.
Over half the value of U.S. wind farms is now made-in-the-USA. This means that tens of thousands of well-paid American workers are the ones creating these power sources in over 500 factories in 43 states.
For example, a recently completed 205 MW expansion to the Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota by Minnesota Power was completed using many American-made parts. Its supply chain exhibits the breadth and strength of the American supply chain for wind energy.
A portion of the generator unit came out of the Siemens plant in Hutchinson, Kan., while workers at a Fort Madison, Iowa factory produced the blades. Wind tower sections for the Siemens turbines, meanwhile, came from Manitowoc, Wis.
Domestic activity actually started at the very beginning of the supply chain, at the natural resource stage: The taconite to make the steel for the towers came right from Minnesota, where the power is delievered to consumers via a direct transmission line.
One benefit of building the turbines in the U.S. is that the cost of transporting these large parts can be greatly cut.
21st Century technology still advancing. Bison Wind Energy Center’s multi-phase build-out also highlights the wind industry’s continued ability to innovate and improve its technology. The 64 turbines comprising Bison 4, as the latest phase is called, uses larger, more powerful Siemens turbines than those installed in earlier phases. Those 64 turbines, Minnesota Power noted, produce about the same amount of “cost-effective electricity produced by the 70 turbines installed for Bison 2 and 3.”
Incidentally, Minnesota Power’s first wind farm, the 25 MW Taconite Ridge facility, went online in 2008. That was the year the U.S. Department of Energy released its report showing the feasibility of 20 percent wind energy in America by 2030—just with the technology of the time and not factoring in any of the recent advances. With industry technology having advanced by leaps and bounds since then, DOE is updating that landmark report via its Wind Vision, previewed last year at the WINDPOWER 2014 Conference & Exhibition and set to come out in final form in the coming months.
This “Wind Vision” for the future can only be met if the U.S. provides a predictable policy incentive for the industry. By extending the now-expired renewable energy Production Tax Credit, Congress can help ensure that this vision is achieved and that it is achieved with American workers.