Made in America label a magnate -- Licensed manufacture

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The announcement by German wind turbine maker Fuhrländer last month of a manufacturing facility in Montana is being followed with the sale of manufacturing licenses to other partners that want to assemble the company's 2.5 MW turbines in America. The company does not expect licensed production to threaten its own turbine sales in the US.

"Fuhrländer feels the market is so large that no one factory can supply all the turbines that are going to be needed here in the next twenty years, says Henry DuPont of Lorax Energy Systems, Fuhrländer's North American distributor. "Fuhrländer can use its long term relationships with suppliers for blades and gearboxes to help those prospective licensees get these parts at a time when gearbox companies and blade companies are really not taking on new customers because they're so booked up," he adds.

DuPont declines to name potential partners or locations but says two or three prospective licensees are working their way through the process to decide whether they want to buy the license -- along with all the support and technology transfer that would be part of the package Initially, DuPont expects components to be shipped from Europe, with machines being assembled regionally by the US licensees. Eventually, he expects components to come from ramped-up US companies or European component makers that set up shop on American shores.

Brazen attitude

"That's the hurdle," DuPont says. "And I'm not just talking about the Fuhrländer prospective licensees, but for anyone who wants to enter into manufacturing. Unless you've been in the business for twenty years and have a long relationship with suppliers, they are just not interested in taking on any more customers. In some cases I would describe their behaviour as brazen. And unless you're ordering hundreds of something or other, they're just not interested."

Meanwhile, the phone at Lorax Energy Systems has not stopped ringing since the Montana announcement. The New York-based company has been Fuhrländer's US marketing, sales and project management arm for more than six years, mostly installing smaller Fuhrländer turbines at schools and industrial facilities. But the decision to move manufacturing to America changed everything.

"It's just absolutely incredible, the response we've gotten from large developers that normally wouldn't call us because we're too small," DuPont says. "All of a sudden they're calling us. They recognise that having local manufacturing, especially in a place like Montana, is going to make a big difference."

In July, Lorax will install the first two of eight 2.5 MW Fuhrländer machines at Stoney Corners, a project in Michigan's Missaukee County. The company is also working on projects in Massachusetts and California that will use 1.5 MW Fuhrländer turbines, all to come from Germany. Other projects in the Lorax pipeline have yet to close, including some "good-sized" projects in Texas. Near term projects will use turbines shipped from Germany while orders moving into 2010 will use machines made in Montana. The company expects to produce 20 of its 2.5 MW machines a month in addition to blades at a nearby facility.

"I would say we've been like Fuhrländer USA," DuPont says. "We support developers not only with consulting, but also with logistics and delivery and installation." As Fuhrländer's licensed partners come onboard for manufacturing, Lorax looks to continue in its familiar role. "We have an established infrastructure and the ability to put projects together for them," DuPont says. "We look forward, by the middle of 2010, to start getting wind turbines out of Montana and we're putting in bids on a number of big projects for utilities -- a couple hundred megawatts at a whack -- that would be well served by this factory."

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