Demand for wind leads to more local turbine manufacturing

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Alberta's growing demand for wind energy has opened the door to wind turbine tower manufacturing in the province. RNG Pro-Tech, which specialises in the manufacture of pressure vessels, has secured contracts to build 30 steel wind turbine towers at its Crossfield steel fabrication plant, 50 kilometres north of Calgary. The first 20, custom made for the Vestas 660 kW turbines used by Vision Quest Windelectric are being installed at the wind developer's Castle River wind farm near Pincher Creek now under major expansion. Vision Quest expects to have the last of 44 new turbines at the site operating this month. The new units, constructed over the course of seven months, bring Castle River's total installed capacity to 39.5 MW. The other ten towers from RNG are for Nordex 1.3 MW units being installed at Canadian Hydro's Cowley North and Sinnott wind plants. RNG Pro-Tech has spent about C$300,000 outfitting the Crossfield plant to handle the new product line. It has also added 20 permanent employees and the company's Tony Giasson expects to see more jobs created as the demand for towers grows. Next year tower manufacturing is projected to account for about 40% of the plant's C$20 million a year business, he says. Until now, Alberta wind energy producers have had to import almost all of the equipment they need. Access to a local tower supplier, says Jason Edworthy of Vision Quest, should eventually result in cost savings. It also adds a new dimension to Canada's wind energy industry. "This step is a huge one on the path toward full domestic wind turbine manufacturing capability," says Edworthy. Giasson says his company plans to make a "strong effort" to win contracts in the United States. "At this point in time I think we'd have to refine our process a little bit and be more competitive to be able to penetrate the US market," he says. "However, if we're talking about the northern states, close to us, then freight becomes a factor. If you're hauling these things up from Texas it's expensive, so a few thousand dollars here and there, we can be competitive all of a sudden." RNG Pro-Tech's plant in Lennoxville, Quebec, has also begun making turbine towers and has a contract with Vestas for ten. Nine will be used in projects in Atlantic Canada and one will be shipped to Massachusetts.

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