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US Special - Supply chain - Rust belt manufacturing strength

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Geography and shipping logistics have played a major role in ramping up the wind power supply chain in the United States (Windpower Monthly, April 2009). "It is a business where you are not sure where your customers are going to be, but you can know where your supply chain will be because foundries just do not pop up like mushrooms," says Edward Weston of the Great Lakes Wind Network, a regional economic development and manufacturing association.


States such as Iowa have successfully lured turbine manufacturers and component suppliers, including Spanish wind turbine maker Acciona, home-grown turbine supplier Clipper, global engineering giant Siemens, also a wind turbine supplier, American rotor blade company TPI Composites, Hendricks, and Trinity Structural Towers, a specialist supplier of wind turbine support structures. "Iowa is making all the big noise about getting all the assembly plants out there," says Weston. "The problem with that is all the assembly plants are trucking their parts from Dayton and Cleveland and Cincinnati, all the way out there."

According to Weston, it is rust-belt manufacturing strongholds like Ohio, Michigan and Indiana that are doing more to support the manufacturing associated with wind because they have more foundries for heavy-duty manufacturing. Ohio's Timken Company is one of many examples of an American rust-belt company expanding into wind power. It makes large-bore bearings for use in main rotor shafts as well as other highly engineered components for gearbox systems. The company had sales of dollars 5.2 billion in 2007, operates in 27 countries and has approximately 25,000 employees. Wind is not its biggest market, but it is one of its fastest growing market segments, says the company's James W Griffith. In the fall, the firm announced plans to expand production capacity at its Tyger River manufacturing facility in Union, South Carolina, to meet increasing demand from the wind industry. "We stand to achieve greater returns by refocusing existing assets and investing in new capacity to serve our most promising market sectors, which certainly includes wind energy," says Griffith.

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