Goldwind plans to install more wind turbines in the United States next year

The company motto of one of the top Chinese wind power manufacturers, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co, is "globalization through localization".

The marketing phrase is a summation of how CEO and Chairman Wu Gang views the company’s global strategy, particularly in the United States where Chicago-based Goldwind USA has been extremely active of late.

Since its first wind farm in 2010 in Pipestone, Minnesota, Goldwind has signed 18 deals in the US in less than two years, including one last month in Montana that received strong government support.

Its second wind power project was a 109-megawatt tower called Shady Oaks in Illinois last year that will have a positive economic effect on North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and New Hampshire.

Tim Rosenzweig, CEO of Goldwind USA, says the company’s goal is to "build our platform in the Americas, to continue gaining acceptance in building our brand with customers and to have a chance to prove how a Chinese/US combination can work together. We want to be a case study of how China and the US could and should work together." Goldwind plans to install 12 wind turbines in two separate 10-megawatt towers in Montana next year.

"Montana is becoming a leader in wind energy and partnerships with innovative, world-class companies like Goldwind (that) are going a long way toward putting us on the map," Montana Senator Max Baucus said in a statement. "I’m pleased to welcome Goldwind to Montana, along with the local tax revenue and jobs this project will bring."

Rosenzweig has been thrilled with the reception Goldwind has received in the US. "We’ve been fortunate that way. We’ve worked hard to be good citizens and to build our credibility. We’ve brought teams with cultural skills to America," he says, comparing the approach to Toyota’s in the 1980s where plants were built employing thousands of American workers.

Goldwind does not actually build the towers where the wind turbines are placed nor does it make the blades or bearings so a lot of contractors are engaged on each of its wind power projects, creating about 400 American jobs thus far.

"For our prior wind power project in Pipestone, Minnesota, over 62 percent of the total wind farm cost through the start of commercial operation was for goods and services procured from US companies for work performed or produced in the United States," Rosenzweig says. "This figure includes blade and tower manufacturing (in North Dakota and Minnesota respectively), engineering, procurement, transportation, construction and a variety of ancillary work including legal and accounting services. Finally, 100 percent of the project work after commercial operation (operation and maintenance) has been contracted to a local company employing local labor."

The proprietary technology Goldwind provides is called the "Permanent Magnet Direct Drive" turbine that is built for the most efficient use of power, Rosenzweig says. "It works more efficiently to turn wind into energy while avoiding losses."

The reason is because the permanent magnet direct drive eliminates what Rosenzweig says was the gear box, the "Achilles heel of the wind business" that turbines have traditionally utilized but are susceptible to breakdowns and prohibitively expensive repairs. Without a gear box, the Goldwind turbine becomes one of the most cost-efficient turbines on the market over the life of the project, he says.

In the two years Rosenzweig has been at the helm in the US, he has focused on three key areas for growth: sales, the service business, and capital and finance. The formula has worked well as Goldwind is neck and neck with Sinovel as the top wind turbine maker in China and fourth largest in the world. There are approximately 80 wind turbine companies in China, Rosenzweig says.

Goldwind has a presence in nearly every continent with installations in South America and Australia, one newly built in Europe, and plans for a wind farm in South Africa by the end of the year. Rosenzweig, being in the industry, thinks wind power has an advantage over solar power.

"Both wind power and solar energy are good – they are renewable, clean energy – but wind power is proven and takes up less land. You can still farm and grow crops near the towers whereas solar is very expensive, is not proven yet and uses a lot of land," he says.

While he’s comfortable with the debate between wind and solar, Rosenzweig stays away from the politicization of Sino-US relations. "For me, generally there is a disconnect between what we do and what the politicians say," he says.

"(Americans) accept us because we make quality products. I leave politics to politicians. The reality is a wind turbine’s a wind turbine. As a society, we should embrace this collaboration. This should be celebrated. They’re smart people, we need to listen and learn from each other."