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US faces tower bottleneck after closures

UNITED STATES: The US wind industry could be facing a bottleneck in tower supply as order activity picks up heading into 2014.

"There is the distinct possibility of a strong rush to secure wind towers," said analyst Dan Shreve, Make Consulting’s US-based partner.

The US saw several major tower manufacturers exit the market or diversify out of wind last year, said Make in a note to clients, and US import duties on towers from Vietnam and China further limits supply options.

Growth in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, as well as in Canada, will also increasingly create competition for production capacity available for export to the US, it says.

Whether there is there is adequate domestic production capacity to satisfy demand remains to be seen, the note says. "Tower supply is going to be one of the those items which could potentially see a bottleneck," said Shreve.

Over the last year a number of US tower manufacturers have closed plants, including Trinity Industries and Katana Summit.

Tower dumping

In late December, the US Department of Commerce (DoC) imposed steep duties of up to 71% on turbine tower imports from China and Vietnam following allegations of dumping and illegal government subsidies.

The DoC hit China with duties ranging from 45% to 71% because of alleged dumping, and duties of 22% to 35% in response to illegal Chinese government subsidies. The DoC also slapped anti-dumping duties of 51% to 58% on towers imported from Vietnam.

However, in January Vestas signed a deal with an unnamed contractor to supply towers in North America from its factory at Pueblo, Colorado.

The manufacturer was unable to give the name of the customer or how many towers would be going to either Canada or the US. But the agreement means that Vestas will be able to create 100 jobs by the end of Q1.

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