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Monday, July 26, 2010

Recession Slows Plans for Brandon Wind Tower Plant

The wind power news isn't all rosy: the recession is stalling wind tower production in Brandon.

Broadwind Energy subsidiary Tower Tech Systems doesn't build the turbines; they build the 200-foot towers that hold those whirling turbines up. Tower Tech has built a plant just north of I-90 by Brandon, the company's third such facility, to build these towers. The building is 1150 feet long—that's three football fields, plus endzones! Materials go in one end, long towers come out the other, just like Play-Doh! Tower Tech picked the location due to good road access and proximity to wind projects. (I can't wait to see them try snaking those towers up the ramp at Exit 406.)

So Tower Tech has the building and equipment, they have the location.... now they just need contracts. Jill Meier at that Sioux Falls paper reports that Tower Tech had a big contract with General Electric, but that GE backed out. Just two years ago, GE was saying we had a wind turbine shortage. But then the recession hit and slowed all sorts of construction down, including green projects. (So, it wasn't enviro-hippies who slowed down green power; it was the gambling bankers who crashed the economy.)

The Tower Tech folks are saying optimistic things to the locals, assuring them the economy will turn around and the plant will be ready to create 150 new jobs soon. Their optimism may be warranted. The green stimulus is kicking into gear. Vestas Wind just landed its fifth big contract of the year (after landing none in gloomy 2009). GE is expanding its investment in wind in Europe and Idaho. GE is also supplying turbines to some other big projects.

So keep your fingers crossed and hardhats ready, Brandon workers: 150 green jobs may be a-comin'!

Related: Even amidst the recession, green power made up more than half of the new electrical generation capacity constructed in the U.S. in 2009.

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