Dorothy and Toto made Kansas famous for high winds, and now the Sunflower State is harnessing this resource as demand for renewable energy gains momentum.
With ease of transportation, a wealth of skilled workers and a strategic location in the heart of the nation’s growing wind industry, Kansas is a natural fit for wind energy-related manufacturing.
More than 25 percent of the state’s manufacturers already serve the wind-energy industry, and at least three major new wind-energy manufacturing facilities are in the works throughout the state. Some aerospace industry manufacturers are also getting into the game.
In Central Kansas, Tindall Corp. has announced plans to build a $66 million plant anchoring the new Kansas Logistics Park in Newton. The 150,000- to 200,000-square-foot plant will make pre-cast concrete towers nearly 100 feet tall that can raise the height of wind turbines.
“We’re in an excellent location for this kind of operation and for manufacturing,” says Mickey Fornaro-Dean, executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council. “The entire county is very strategically located, and we have lots of land that’s big, open and easy to get into and out of. This kicks off the Kansas Logistics Park with a major company, and we’re honored they chose us.”
South Carolina-based Tindall Corp. expects to employ 200 by the end of its first year and 400 by the end of its third year, she says, and construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2011.
Major new wind-energy manufacturing facilities in other parts of the state include Siemens’ $35 million nacelle (the part of the wind turbine that houses the gearbox, drive train and control electronics) production facility in Hutchinson, which is scheduled to open in fall 2010; and a 41,000-square-foot facility in Junction City, which is being developed by Jupiter Group, a Danish company that produces composite components for wind turbines.
Winds of Change
Some companies in the aerospace industry are also looking into wind-energy possibilities to bolster their bottom lines.
Electromech Technologies in Wichita has traditionally designed and manufactured electromechanical products such as motors, generators and actuators for the aerospace industry, but it has recently started to diversify and create generators for small wind turbines.
“When the financial crisis hit the general aviation market, our business declined by 30 percent, and we needed to find a new market that would value our core competencies and fill the gap,” says Greg Jessup, vice president for new product development at Electromech.
The company isn’t physically set up to make large components, so it’s focusing on the small end of the wind-energy market – generators with a one-kilowatt through 25-kilowatt output, which can be used for a single home to a large factory. It has already manufactured and sold one-kilowatt units to an original equipment manufacturer, with deliveries scheduled for the end of July 2010. The company has a five-kilowatt prototype and will soon have a 10-kilowatt prototype ready for testing.
“We have all the technical skills and high-tech manufacturing capabilities here in this region to become a ‘center of excellence’ for green energy production,” Jessup says. “Electromech’s core competency of electromechanical design and manufacture, combined with our ability to wind our own motors and alternators, make this a natural extension of our business.”