New Milwaukee plant opening exemplifies supply chain trend for wind industry

Posted on September 7, 2010. Filed under: Economic development, Wind |


An article by Carl Levesque, communications editor at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):

Another link in the wind energy supply chain has come stateside.
Avanti Wind Systems recently completed its plant outside Milwaukee, Wis., and is starting up production of its wind turbine tower ladder systems there, the company said.

Until now, Avanti has manufactured its ladder systems exclusively in China and Germany. “The factory in Wisconsin will enable us to move employment to the USA, while also allowing us to give faster and better service to our customers throughout North America,” said Kent Pedersen, general manager for Avanti Wind Systems’ U.S. operations.

The startup of the plant continues an industry trend in which the second-tier segment of the supply chain continues to migrate to the U.S., literally following the turbine manufacturers they serve and that have already set up assembly facilities here. To be sure, the Avanti plant’s advantages cited by the company show the news to be a textbook example of the wind industry’s preference for sourcing components near its market—that is, domestically—given such factors as component size, savings in transport time, and a general ability to shave dollars off logistics costs. The job-creating attributes of wind energy so often cited by industry advocates is largely the result of this preference.

Avanti’s news releases states, “The logistics also give Avanti, and consequently its customers, considerable advantages. Finished ladder systems take up a lot of space given the amount of raw aluminum involved. Moreover, the shorter transport times will reduce the amount of damage during transport, which typically occurs during the transport and handling of aluminum ladders, with the consequent major savings in transport costs. The new Wisconsin factory will manufacture ladder sections of up to six meters in length. The sections are subsequently assembled when they are installed in the towers.”

In spite of the recent industry slowdown, the second tier of the supply chain—that is, those components beyond blades, nacelles, and towers—continues to ripple with activity, largely because turbine manufacturers are seeking greater efficiencies by bringing their supply chain to the U.S., where they have already set up assembly facilities.

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