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Vote of confidence in American wind -- New manufacturing start-up

Confidence in the future of the US wind market remains high, it seems. Despite the current lull in activity caused by the lapse in wind's federal production tax credit (PTC), a group of industry veterans has set up Global Energy Systems with plans for an automated manufacturing plant with jobs for 100 employees in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

The new company expects the state to be at the centre of US wind development over the next few years. Wisconsin is expecting more than 400 MW, while neighbouring Minnesota will add 800 MW. "This is where we see the growth market," says Gary Koster of Global Energy. "Logistics are a big part of the puzzle. We are closer to where the towers will be located." Koster says he and his partners believe an extension of the PTC will make it through Congress. "Even if it doesn't, the market will still move forward and there will be a dramatic shortage of wind towers." He expects the facility will generate between $50 million and $75 million in orders in its first year.

The manufacturing plant will be the first automated wind industry facility in the US and lower the cost of components, says Koster. Although automation is used in some European facilities, towers in the US are all built by hand, he says, and that costs more. Global Energy has bought tower manufacturing equipment from Sweden's ESAB and Italy's DAVI.

Other components that will be built at Stevens Point are the flanges that hold turbine sections together, rotor hubs, gearbox housings and bed plates, on which the main wind turbine housing is mounted.

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