Potential Canada blade manufacturer -- Minimum 1000 MW starter

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A Quebec manufacturer of composite parts for the mass transit industry, Multina Inc, has signalled its intent to get into the wind power business by optioning land for a blade factory in the port city of Gaspé. The company says it is positioning itself to participate in Hydro-Quebec's call for 2000 MW of wind power, which will carry strict requirements for regional and provincial content of wind plant technology.

Multina, says vice president Stephane Mercier, has already signed a letter of intent with a European turbine manufacturer, which he will not name, to supply it with blades not only for its Quebec bids, but also for requests for proposals currently underway in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Multina is also in talks with two other manufacturers interested in participating in the Quebec call. The bid deadline is September 15, with the winners to be announced in January. Power deliveries start in 2010 and extend to 2015. Mercier says Multina needs to win at least 1000 MW to proceed with the plant.

The company, founded in 1963, has 1100 employees at manufacturing facilities in Canada, the US and Mexico. It produces a variety of composite and metal parts for buses, recreational vehicles, and subway and light rail transit cars. "We are using the same technologies that are used for manufacturing the blades and the nacelle in the wind sector," says Mercier.

Right moment

Hydro-Quebec's request for proposals (RFP), along with a wind turbine market where demand for components is outstripping supply, makes this the "right moment" for Multina to expand into the wind industry, says Mercier. It chose to go public with its plans to help demonstrate that expertise is available for turbine makers to tap into.

One wind industry message Multina has heard is that its C$100 million annual turnover is not enough to provide the financial depth sought from component suppliers. As a result, the company has reached an agreement with Le Fonds de solidarité FTQ, a small business development capital fund sponsored by the Quebec Labour Federation. The fund, which has assets exceeding C$6.8 billion, will backstop Multina with a letter of credit providing the financial guarantees needed to participate in the RFP.

The company is conducting a study of existing facilities at its planned site to see if they can be used in blade production or whether it must build a new factory. Either way, says Mercier, it expects to invest C$25-30 million and create 200-250 jobs when the plant is at full production. Multina also plans to get into the production of nacelle shells -- and possibly nacelle assembly -- although Mercier says a final site for that facility has not been selected.

The city of Gaspé is already the site of an LM Glasfiber plant that supplies blades to GE Energy and has a production capability of close to 400 MW a year.

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