Suzlon idles Minnesota blade factory

UNITED STATES: Suzlon has announced plans to wind down its blade-making plant in Pipestone, Minnesota following a 70% drop-off in US orders for the first half of 2010.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Suzlon is planning to make 110 layoffs at the plant, which will take effect on December 29.

The company will reportedly retain 33 employees at Pipestone, to re-tool the plant for larger blades in anticipation of a market recovery.

Suzlon opened the $15 million blade factory in wind-rich southwestern Minnesota in November 2006. While the facility employed some 500 workers at its peak, the current number is 143.  

Recently Suzlon, one of the world’s leading turbine manufacturers, has been struggling in the US market and has reported a drop of 70% in US installations over the first half of 2010.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently called this year’s third quarter the worst in three years for the US market.

Suzlon did not respond to calls at its US headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

However, there was no reference to Pipestone when Suzlon unveiled its Q2 results this weekend.

"This has been a progressive quarter for us," said Suzlon chairman and managing director Tulsi Tanti in the statement. "Our group order book has grown to $5.4 billion, with particularly strong contributions from Repower and our India business. This gives us confidence about the remainder of the year and beyond."

The Pipestone layoffs came despite Suzlon reporting smaller-than-expected losses for the second quarter. It attributed this to a 35% increase in orders primarily coming from India and Brazil. The company is also bidding for 800MW of orders in South Africa.