San Angelo, TX's Alternative-Energy Industry

On Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 15:36

Texas is the country’s top state for wind energy production, and San Angelo is poised to become a leading player in this growing industry.

In June 2009, Martifer-Hirschfeld Energy Systems LLC broke ground on a $40-million facility on Old Ballinger Highway that will produce steel towers for wind turbine generators and employ more than 200 people when operating at full capacity.

Officials have not set an opening date, but the factory’s construction is well under way.

“It’s going to have a major impact on the tax base when fully staffed and operating,” says Phil Neighbors, president of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce. “We believe alternative energy, and wind power specifically, will play a major role in our future economy.”

Martifer-Hirschfeld Energy Systems’ investment is taking place in two stages. The first phase includes an investment of about $30 million, and the company expects to employ about 125 people and produce about 200 towers a year when operating at full capacity. The second phase will boost the number of hires to more than 200 and the number of towers produced to about 400 a year at full capacity, officials said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

An added bonus: The company received a nearly $3.5-million tax credit in 2010 for the first phase of the venture as part of the federal Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, designed to boost clean-energy manufacturing projects in the United States.

Joining Forces

Martifer Energy Systems, based in Portugal, has extensive experience in wind power and is present in more than 20 countries. In 2009, the company joined forces with San Angelo-based Hirschfeld Wind Energy Solutions, part of the structural steel company Hirschfeld Industries.

The joint venture, called Martifer-Hirschfeld Energy Systems LLC, is Martifer’s first U.S. facility.

“We found the right partner at the right time to enter this market,” says Dennis Hirschfeld, CEO of Hirschfeld Industries. “We look forward to capitalizing on our U.S. ‘know-how,’ as well as on Martifer Energy Systems’ globally respected name as an excellent supplier to the wind industry.”

In addition to Hirschfeld Industries' extensive fabrication experience, San Angelo offers convenient rail and highway access and a skilled workforce. As for wind-power potential, the 11th Congressional District, including San Angelo, was named second in wind-energy capacity among all congressional districts nationwide, according to an April 2010 American Wind Energy Association report. These features are also attracting other alternative-energy prospects, and the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce is capitalizing on its strengths to foster the city’s reputation as an alternative-energy hub.

For more than a year, the chamber and the Concho Valley Workforce Development Board have been working with a solar-power company from the Northeast that wants to develop a solar field in the San Angelo area, Neighbors says. San Angelo officials are also talking to alternative-energy suppliers that might consider moving to San Angelo as the industry moves forward.

Investing in Education

When the new factory opens its doors, San Angelo workers will be ready. In November 2009 Texas Workforce Solutions, a state government agency,  gave Howard College a grant of more than a half-million dollars to train employees for work in the new manufacturing plant. The Concho Valley Workforce Development Board also provided funds for the college to purchase equipment for training.

The first class of about 20 students graduated in spring 2010, and another set of courses was planned for late summer 2010. Some students are already working for companies that use similar technologies.

“As the industry expands, we’ll have a trained workforce ready to accept the positions,” Neighbors says.

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