Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind

Ed. note: This post was originally published on energy.gov.

American Wind PowerPhoto courtesy of Nordex USA

Our countdown of the top ten things you didn’t know about wind energy:

10. Human civilizations have harnessed wind power for thousands of years. Early forms of windmills used wind to crush grain or pump water. Now, modern wind turbines use the wind to create electricity. Learn how here.

9. A wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components.

8. Wind turbines are big. A wind turbine blade can be up to 150 feet long, and a turbine tower can be over 250 feet tall, almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

7. Higher wind speeds mean more electricity, and wind turbines are getting taller to reach higher altitudes where it’s even windier. See the Energy Department’s wind resource mapsto find average wind speeds in your state or hometown.

6. Most of the components of wind turbines installed in the United States are manufactured here. Facilities for building wind turbine parts are located in over 40 states, and the U.S. wind energy industry currently employs 75,000 people.

5. The technical resource potential of the winds above U.S. coastal waters is enough to provide over 4,000 gigawatts of electricity, or approximately four times the generating capacity of the current U.S. electric power system. Although not all of these resources will be developed, this represents a major opportunity to provide power to highly-populated coastal cities. See what the Energy Department is doing to develop offshore wind in the United States.

4. The United States generates more wind energy than any other country except China, and wind accounts for 35 percent of all newly installed U.S. electricity generation capacity over the last four years.

3. The United States’ wind power capacity reached 47,000 megawatts by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power over 12 million homes annually — as many homes as in the entire state of California — and represents an 18-fold increase in capacity since 2000.

2. Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in 2011 are 50 percent lower than those signed in 2009, and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 3 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country.

1. As much as 20 percent of our nation’s electricity could come from wind energy by 2030but continued support for clean energy tax credits is critical to achieving this target. That’s why President Obama is calling for an extension on the Production Tax Credit — to support wind producers in the U.S. and continue to help drive the wind industry’s growth.

Liz Hartman is the Communications Team Lead of Wind and Water Power at the U.S. Energy Department

This Column Was 100% Made in America

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

By   Published: February 15, 2012

BLUE-COLLAR workers in fields like manufacturing — particularly when they make products on American soil — are again becoming a favorite subject for white-collar workers on Madison Avenue.

The trend was born of the economic worries that followed the financial crisis in 2008. Recently, it is gaining steam — appropriate, since the ads often use blasts of steam to signal something is being built — with proposals in Washington to offer incentives to encourage the location or relocation of factories in the United States.

“We continue to see very heavy emotional response to anything that would leverage against the bad economy,” said Robert Passikoff, president at Brand Keys, a brand and customer-loyalty consulting company in New York. Read more of this post

Dumping China for American Job Shops

More U.S. small businesses are steering their orders to American factories, such as Tennessee-based Bristol Custom Solutions, as costs go up in China.

More U.S. small businesses are steering their orders to American factories, such as Tennessee-based Bristol Custom Solutions, as costs go up in China.

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney  February 13, 2012: 11:51 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. small businesses that initially rushed to Chinese factories to get their products made are now dumping them for American manufacturers.

And the shift is gaining traction, said industry experts who match U.S. small companies with domestic firms.

Mitch Free, the founder and CEO of Atlanta-based MFG.com, said his company has seen a 15% uptick in inquiries since 2009 from U.S. firms looking for American factories to replace their Chinese suppliers.

MFG.com is one of the largest online directories used by businesses to find domestic manufacturers.

One reason behind the trend is that “Chinese manufacturing has become expensive,” Free explained.

Another is that the U.S. economy is still uncertain. Most small businesses are forced to order large quantities to justify costs when dealing with companies overseas, he said. And that’s a risky move if American consumers are not splurging yet.

Manufacturers closer to home allow small businesses to order smaller batches, which means less of their money is tied up if their inventory is unsold, he said.

Revive Made in USA? Easier said than done

WindStream Technologies opened a new manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind., last September to produce small wind turbines for home use.

WindStream Technologies opened a new manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind., last September to produce small wind turbines for home use.

WindStream Technologies knows well the value of manufacturing in the United States.

In December 2010, the startup selected a Chinese factory to make 35 prototypes of its wind turbines, because they wanted them “quickly and cheaply,” said David Dingman, Windstream’s lead mechanical engineer.

It was a disaster. “The prototypes that the Chinese manufacturer sent back to us were junk,” said Dingman. “There were parts that were put upside down. Other parts were poor quality. Some even fell off.”

WindStream decided not to have the final products made in China.

The company was able to snag U.S. manufacturers with the help of MFG.com.

And last month, it started mass producing its small wind turbines for home use at its new 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind. The company employs 30 workers and is hoping to ramp up to 100, if it lands a deal to sell the turbines at a mass retailer, said Dingman.

WindStream now has its turbine covers made in Chicago, while some metal parts are produced in Ohio.

Some of the turbines parts are still made in China, simply because the raw materials to make them don’t exist in the United States, said Dingham. But “the Midwest proved to be terrific for us,” he said.

Indeed. WindStream produces its turbines at a 10% lower cost per unit compared to what the company would have paid in China, thanks to its American suppliers that provide competitive prices and the elimination of overseas shipping and travel costs.

Del Mar, Calif., entrepreneur and inventor Julie Zizka actually liked the way her tote bags looked after a Chinese manufacturer produced 5,000 of them for her in 2008.

But she still was not a fan of having her manufacturing done overseas. She had concerns about production delays and fretted about how the extensive amount of transportation used was hurting the environment. What’s more, she noticed that her customers were preferring products that were made in the United States.

By 2011, she was looking for a U.S. manufacturer to produce her “Tote Buddy,” a colorful tote for storing reusable plastic bags.

She came across one after searching online and seeing ads for Bristol Custom Solutions, which heavily advertises on MacRAE’s Blue Book.

MacRAE’s has seen a pickup in inquiries — just like Zizka’s — from companies wanting to replace Chinese suppliers with American ones, said Lori Meloche, MacRAE’s vice president of marketing.

The directory — first published in the United States in 1893 as a “blue-colored book” — has since evolved into a website with more than 1.2 million North American industrial manufacturers, which averages 1.5 million users monthly.

What small firms want from Obama’s manufacturing plan

Zizka connected with Bristol, a 26-year-old, Tennessee-based manufacturer, best-known for making secure locking bags used by banks and the federal government to transport cash and other valuables.

“People have been contacting us all the time lately, telling us they don’t want to produce their products in China,” said Brandon Cantrell, Bristol’s general manager.

When Zizka sent Bristol a sample of the tote, the company redesigned it and brought down some of her costs, said Cantrell.

Today, Bristol is making 1,000 new Tote Buddy bags for sale this spring. For Zizka, the unit price for one of her Tote Buddy bags made in Cantrell’s factory is still 170% higher than for one made in the Chinese factory, said Cantrell.

But that doesn’t bother Zizka.

“My customers want my bag made in the U.S.,” she said, “I’m willing to absorb that cost if I can control the quality, get them to my customers faster and help the environment as well.”

Americas Dirty War Against Manufacturing (Part 1): Carl Pope

Illustration by Tomi Um

Illustration by Tomi Um

“I’d love to make this product in America. But I’m afraid I won’t be able to.”

My host, a NASA engineer turned Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has just conducted a fascinating tour of his new clean-energy bench-scale test facility. It’s one of the Valley’s hottest clean-technology startups. And he’s already thinking of going abroad.

“Wages?” I ask.

His dark eyebrows arch as if I were clueless, then he explains the reality of running a fab — an electronics fabrication factory. “Wages have nothing to do with it. The total wage burden in a fab is 10 percent. When I move a fab to Asia, I might lose 10 percent of my product just in theft.”

I’m startled. “So what is it?”

“Everything else. Taxes, infrastructure, workforce training, permits, health care. The last company that proposed a fab on Long Island went to Taiwan because they were told that in a drought their water supply would be in the queue after the golf courses.”

So begins my education on the hollowing-out of the American economy, which might be titled: “It’s not the wages, stupid.”

Manufacturing’s share of U.S. employment peaked in 1979 and has since fallen by almost half. Although manufacturing has been a relative bright spot in the dismal economy of the past couple of years, in the last decade, the U.S. lost a third of its manufacturing jobs, with the damage rippling far beyond that base to erode millions of jobs that are dependent on it. Read more of this post

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