The contract will outfit Balfour Wind Energy's 20MW Pringle wind project in the Texas Panhandle, due for grid connection at the end of this year's third quarter. The machines were the first produced at DeWind's lone factory, a former Teco-Westinghouse facility in Round Rock, Texas. It hopes to produce 300 turbines a year there by 2012.
Several sales contracts for the 2MW machine are pending in Europe, Asia and North America. Robert Rugh, DeWind president and chief executive, expects to make formal contractual announcements by the end of summer.
The deal came less than a year after the California-based company was acquired by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME). DSME has set up a joint venture with the government of Nova Scotia, Canada, to retrofit an old railcar plant to build towers and blades so that it has its own dedicated manufacturing. It expects to be producing blades there by the end of next year.
DeWind turbines feature a unique design, including a two-stage gearbox and a Voith WinDrive, similar to a torque converter, along with a constant-speed generator that requires no power electronics to facilitate grid connection. The configuration allows DeWind to circumvent contentious patent restrictions that can make entry into the US difficult for manufacturers - a big part of what made the company attractive to DSME, says Rugh.
The turbine was only available as a 50-hertz unit designed for the European grid, but six 60-hertz prototypes for the US market have been installed since 2006. The first 60-hertz machine was flown in Germany at the end of 2006. Three are in southwestern Minnesota and one in Sweetwater, Texas. The sixth was planted at an Argentina gold-mining site in 2007 as part of an off-grid power system using additional diesel generation to run the mine.
DSME is the fourth owner of DeWind since 2003. Unlike its predecessors, the Korean company brings deep-pocketed financial backing as the world's second-largest shipbuilder. In addition, DSME maintains formidable supply-chain resources and 3,000 engineers in Korea. "There are a lot of interesting synergies between shipbuilding and wind turbine building that are not necessarily readily apparent - and I'd love to see them applied to turbine design and analysis. It all gives us a little bit of market leverage that this company has never had before," says Rugh.
All of which could lead DeWind into larger turbines both for onshore and offshore applications. "DSME believes a lot of the current turbine manufacturers come from being a turbine manufacturer first, and then try to figure out how to do things in the water," Rugh says. The company's offshore presence already includes ocean-going vessels that can deploy offshore turbine installations.
DeWind has been recruiting staff in North America, Germany and Korea and may also expand into other areas in Asia.