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Mexico

Mexico

Making blades in Mexico

America's TPI Composites and Mitsubishi Power Systems of Japan are manufacturing lightweight wind turbine blades for Mitsubishi's 1 MW wind turbine in a 18,580 square metre building in Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico, a border town near El Paso, Texas. The joint venture company, VienTek LLC, began production last month of an expected 1200 blades a year. It has room to more than double manufacturing space in the future.

Masato Akado, manager of Mitsubishi's wind turbine group in the US, says the manufacturing plant's location takes advantage of Mexico's low rent and labour costs. Mitsubishi has about 1000 turbines installed in the US, all of which have been exported from Japan. Despite the growing American wind generation market, the company has no plans to begin manufacturing turbines in the US, Akado says.

The Juarez facility is close to many of America's top growth sites for wind generation, including Texas and the western states. It is also much closer than other facilities to new wind developments in Oaxaca State in southwest Mexico. Oaxaca is encouraging the construction of as much as 2000 MW of wind power generation in the next 15 years (Windpower Monthly, February 2002).

"This is a big deal for TPI," says Steve Lockard, TPI's executive vice president and also president of VienTek. He says the new company will use the same patented manufacturing process it now uses when building turbine blades at its factory in Warren, Rhode Island. Most blades built in Rhode Island have been for Mitsubishi turbines, but the US factory will remain open and will continue to build blades for turbines installed in the eastern US, says Lockard. TPI will also continue its research and development activities at its Rhode Island factory. "Juarez is a focused factory to only build blades for Mitsubishi Power Systems," he says.

TPI's Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process is based on a reusable vacuum bag that draws resin into a reinforcing fabric of fibre glass, carbon fibre, aramid or other material. The company applies the same process it uses on wind turbine blades to sailboats, flatbed trailers and people movers.

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