From horsepower to wind power -- Blade firm sells out to Australia

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A name synonymous with fast cars in Australia, Bolwell Corporation, has taken a fork in the road and bought 50% of Polymarin Huron Composites, a Canadian manufacturer of rotor blades for wind turbines. The remaining half of the company is owned by Polymarin Huron's Dutch parent, Polymarin NL. The new Australian end of the partnership will be re-named Polymarin Bolwell Composites with Bolwell Corp's founder, Campbell Bolwell, as CEO.

Bolwell's Linley Hughes describes the moves as taking the company "from horsepower to wind power." The 35 year old Australian company specialises in composite and vacuum form mouldings and fabrications for the automotive and aerospace industries. It is most famous in Australia for low volume, high quality, high-powered sports cars. The company is based in Melbourne with offices in USA, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

The purchase of Polymarin Huron is the culmination of 18 months work assessing the wind industry after identifying it as an emerging market, says Hughes. "We saw an opportunity for Australian manufacture and the technology was within our reach," he adds. "Bolwell opted for purchase of equity in an established company to position ourselves with expertise and knowledge with a view to transferring the technology."

Hughes stresses they are not in the business of blade design. Bolwell is expert, however, at turning "lumps of resin and fibreglass into high quality products," says Hughes. "As an OEM [original equipment manufacturer] supplier to the automotive industry, the performance demands in terms of price, quality and on-time delivery are huge."

Australian production

From Bolwell's end, the overall business plan is expected to be finalised before the end of this year with a view to opening a production facility, probably based in either regional Victoria or Tasmania, by mid 2001.

Australian joint ventures with established European wind industry players have been in fashion over the past year. German turbine manufacturer Enercon has joined Western Power Corporation in Western Australia to form Wind Energy Corporation Pty Ltd and Lagerwey the Windmaster of the Netherlands has set up Primergy together with Renewable Energy Australia Pacific and Siemens (Windpower Monthly, September 1999).

Indeed, everything from the tower to the generating components can be fabricated in Australia -- and now even the blades. With Bolwell's diversification, the way has been paved for a totally Australian manufactured large-scale wind turbine.

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