Michigan factories humming with wind power

Michigan and manufacturing go together. But it’s no secret the state has been hit hard by a generally shrinking U.S.-based manufacturing segment over the last several decades.

Thanks in part to wind power, that’s changing in America, and in Michigan too. The story of recent wind turbines supply-chain entrant Energetx Composites of Holland, Mich., and how wind energy providing new economic opportunities in the Wolverine State is the subject of the latest segment of WindTV, the American Wind Energy Association’s vehicle to highlight how wind works for America.

Energetx is Exhibit A of wind power’s ability to provide new manufacturing opportunities–that is why President Obama showcased the company in his State of the Union speech last month. The company, explains Energetx’s Kelly Slikkers, has a history in yacht manufacturing. With an expertise in composites, wind power seemed like a natural fit some four years ago, when the company began considering entering the space. “It was an opportunity for us to look at diversification using those core skills,” Slikkers explains in the video segment.

Providing a broader statewide viewpoint on the video is Lindsay Eister of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Getting Michigan manufacturing plants linked into the wind power supply chain is about one thing, she says. “It’s absolutely all about jobs.”

Energetx Compositives is doing both of those things. In wind, it has found a new market for its product and, in doing that, it’s creating jobs. Just one example: in need of workers for the company’s new growth area, it partnered with Grand Rapids Community College on a composite technician training course. Energetx has already hired 20 people from the course. “Jobs are needed in Michigan,” says Slikkers. “This is a way we’ve been able to create jobs, through this diversification.”

Just last week, the Michigan Public Service Commission released a report showing that the state’s renewable energy standard (RES) is doing what the state hoped it would: generating investment and economic activity. The report found that the RES has resulted in $100 million in investment in the state, spurring manufacturing and business growth and creating jobs.

Such manufacturing success stories could be a thing of the past, however, if Congress doesn’t take action. The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power’s primary policy driver, is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and the wind turbines industry supply chain is already feeling the effects of the uncertainty, particularly given that turbine orders are placed months in advance.

“Michigan is at the forefront of the American manufacturing success story wind power is creating all across the U.S.,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Yet congressional inaction threatens to end this positive story. We urge Congress to listen to the humming of factories across America before they go quiet, and pass the PTC now.”

Notably, WindTV interviewed both Slikkers and Eister at the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition, which is the industry’s annual town square for doing business and exchanging ideas. This year, conversations allowing supply-chain members to do deals and link with one another are certain to take place at WINDPOWER 2012, scheduled for Atlanta, Ga., June 3-6. For more information on the event, go to www.windpowerexpo.org.

WindTV is a showcase of video profiles of Americans whose lives have been positively impacted by the wind energy industry. The site, located at www.awea.org/windtv, features a different video profile each week.

To hear more about Energtx and Michigan’s embrace of wind power, and how wind power generates jobs for America, go to WindTV.

By Carl Levesque, American Wind Energy Association Editor & Publications Manager, www.awea.org/blog/