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Against the wind  

Tight global supplies of wind turbines is the latest roadblock for some developers wishing to build large wind farms in central Illinois.

It has even become a problem in part for those who have started building such wind farms.

This latest issue follows a growing list of things impacting wind farm development locally, such as vocal local opposition, complex township road agreements, formal protests from village governments, and a non-uniform method of assessing the facilities.

As demand for turbines increases not only in Illinois but nationwide, the supply of parts to build them has tightened.

“Would I like there to be more turbines? Yes I would,” Chris Moore, managing director of Minneopolis-based Navitas Energy said.

Navitas is the company spearheading the development of a 79-turbine facility northeast of Benson. It was recently sold to Spanish utility Iberdrola, one of Europe’s largest producers of renewable energy, partly because that company has better access to turbines.

“Is there is a problem (in keeping up with turbine demand)? It’s the way the market is right now so you work with it,” Moore added.

Compared to European markets, the United States does not yet have the capacity to manufacture enough parts to keep up with the strong demand, said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman with the American Wind Energy Association.

“In the U. S., we’re playing catch-up and sat on the sidelines while renewable energy was being developed in other countries during the 1990s,” she said. “We’re building manufacturing capabilities in the country, but if wind is going to play a vital part in our electrical supply, we need a stronger manufacturing base.”

Illinois recently took the first steps toward increasing its relatively nonexistent manufacturing capacity when Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced in January a $2 million investment package for Texas-based Trinity Structural Towers Inc., a manufacturer of wind turbines, to help the company establish a facility in Clinton.

The package’s terms include offering corporate income tax credits to Trinity over the next 10 years based on job creation, job training funds, and a wind energy grant.

“Right now, you can wait 1 1/2 years for turbines bought from the Netherlands and Sweden,” said State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, and chief sponsor of an Illinois House proposal that requires wind farms in the state to be uniformly assessed. “It’s a great sign there are companies willing to invest in Illinois.”

The package comes after Blagojevich announced an energy independence plan to reduce the state’s reliance on imported energy. One part of the plan is to support a so-called Renewable Portfolio Standard, a requirement that 10 percent of the state’s electric supply comes from renewable energy sources like wind energy by 2015.

Part of that program included a $2.2 million grant to Horizon Wind Energy for the construction of the first phase of its wind farm project dubbed Twin Groves, in McLean County.

Already under construction, Horizon Wind Energy officials claim the turbine shortage, while a concern, is not hampering progress.

“We’ve got turbines under order for part of construction next year and we’re working to get other agreements in place further out on that,” said Bob Crowell, development director of the Midwest region for Horizon Wind Energy. “Right now, no, (the tight market) is not affecting our projects.”

He said the company purchases turbines from global firms like Gamesa in Spain and Vestus, a large Danish turbine manufacturer. Gamesa and Vestus have parts plants in the United States.

Most, if not all, of the first 120 turbines at the Twin Groves project near Arrowsmith should be completed by April.

Crowell said even though they are getting the turbines, it’s not coming cheap.

“High demand does affect one thing and that is pricing,” he said. “The pricing is up on almost all raw materials associated with projects like this. Concrete, steel, turbines, and such.”

By John Sharp
Of The Journal Star

pjstar.com

11 March 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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