United States

United States

US Investment & Development Guide - Southern States

UNITED STATES: Texas may conjure up images of ranks of oil pumps, but it is also the US's largest wind power producing state, with more than 9.5GW of installed capacity, and home to the world's largest wind farm.

The state is also one of the few outside the Northeast eyeing up the opportunities of the potential US offshore market. But only Oklahoma, with more than a gigawatt of installed capacity, saves Texas from being an outcast in this wind- power-shy region; the other states in this massive tract of the country — Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana — are hardly involved in wind power at all.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the majority of research and infrastructure related to wind power in the south is based in Texas, which has a strong history of wind power research developing out of its university system.

However, other as-yet less wind-oriented states do seem to be looking for ways to capitalise on the wind market. North Carolina, for instance has little by way of installed or planned capacity, but is active in the supply chain, while a number of other states appear to be similarly involved in manufacturing, even if they have no development plans.

Tapping the supply chain potential

Beyond North Carolina, states such as Florida, where commercial wind power is virtually non-existent, are home to major component manufacturing factories, while others such as Arkansas, another non-player in terms of wind capacity, is gearing up to tap into the supply chain potential of the industry. Where the benefits of wind power might have proved to be a hard sell to the public, in some states perhaps the prospect of new jobs has not.

 

Project emerge from giant's shadow

With more than 1,000 turbines and covering an area several times the size of Manhattan, E:ON's 718.5MW Roscoe wind farm is the world's largest wind energy production facility. In the US's most wind-powered state, however, there are other major projects due to open soon. Later this year, the 200MW Pattern Energy-developed Gulf Wind II farm is due to come online near Serita, while a little further north the second stage of the Papalote Creek facility will add a further 200MW. Submissions have been made for environmental permits and planning permission. Another major development in the Texas pipeline is the planned expansion of the Cedro Hills project. The second, third and fourth phases of this scheme are expected to expand the 150MW first phase by a further 650MW of installed capacity.

Offshore, the renewable energy developer Baronyx Corporation has submitted plans for two 1.3GW wind farms – Mustang Island and Rio Grande. Oklahoma is the only other significant state in the region in terms of wind power; the 151MW Blue Canyon facility is the largest wind farm in the state. Major projects underway include the 224MW Dempsey Ridge facility, due to come online in 2011, and a number of other 100MW-plus schemes.

 

Manufacturers look beyond Lone Star

Given its domination of the region's wind industry, Texas is similarly influential in supply chain terms. It has major turbine manufacturing plants in Coleman, where Trinity Structural Towers operates a tower production facility, and Round Rock, home to TECO-Westinghouse's turbine manufacturing and logistics base. Texas also has a Siemens Wind Power service support centre for US-based wind farms in Houston.

Oklahoma's major supply chain link lies in its largest city Tulsa, where pipeline manufacturer DMI has its global headquarters and a wind tower plant. Although Florida, has a small wind energy output, the port town of Pensacola hosts a GE turbine factory – its waterside location easing transportation to the other Gulf states. GE also has a turbine manufacturing plant in Greenville, North Carolina. The city is also home to a number of other firms involved in specialist part supply.

Fort Smith, Arkansas is the site for Mitsubishi's new turbine factory. It goes online next year and will employ some 400 people to build the company's 2.4MW turbine.

 

Forty-year record of wind research

The Alternative Energy Institute (AEI) in Canyon, Texas was formed in 1977 at West Texas A&M University to continue wind energy research begun in 1970. AEI specialises in wind data collection, analysis of wind characteristics, and the study and evaluation of wind turbines.

Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina is home to North Carolina Wind Energy (NCWE), a research body set up to investigate how best to harness the state's natural wind resources. NCWE, an alliance of policy makers and environmental and industry groups, exists to promote the development of wind farms in the Tar Heel state. The Georgia Institute of Technology houses the Strategic Energy Institute where researchers are looking into turbine design optimisation, wind speed forecasting and offshore wind farm feasibility.

Meanwhile, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is the base of the Supply Chain Management Research Center. In 2008 the centre produced a study on the transportation of wind turbines and issues affecting the movement of these massive components.

 

Coastal and inland opportunities on offer

With its extensive Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastlines, the US South contains some of the country's key ports in terms of wind throughput. Last year, according to US Census Bureau figures, Texas boasted five of the top ten US ports in terms of wind energy imports: Corpus Christie, Beaumont, Galveston, Houston and Freeport. This is partly down to the state's huge influence on the US wind market.

But the state is also an important route for shipments of wind equipment heading inland, with shipping companies often opting to send equipment overland when winter conditions prevent transportation across the Great Lakes. With its strategic position on the Arkansas River and on the edge of the North America wind corridor stretching up into the Midwest, Oklahoma's Port of Muskogee is a key inland facility, connected as it is to the Gulf of Mexico. The port has recently become home to Eagle Claw Fabrication, a tower manufacturer from Tulsa.

Down on the Gulf coast, Mississippi's Port of Pascagoula also handles wind turbines, while New Orleans' position at the mouth of the Mississippi River makes it a hub for wind freight heading to the Midwest. On the Atlantic coast, Pensacola serves companies such as Vestas and GE

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