Outsourcing to Colorado


It’s the double-edged sword of global economics: when Vestas, a Danish wind turbine maker, decided to open another production plant in the United States, calls of “outsourcing” gleefully greeted it. Has the U.S., as the claim implies, become so cheap and appealing as a production site that foreign businesses flock over the pond to set up shop? Or is Vestas’ move a sign of the strength of the renewable energy market, an endorsement in the wind-harnessing future of the American West? 

The wind turbine maker has decided to open its newest manufacturing facility in Pueblo, Colorado, and when it opens in 2010 it will be the world’s largest turbine plant. The announcement coincides with the company’s decision to halt production at its 92-person facility in Scotland, citing weak orders. It remains to be seen whether the factory will be shuttered for good, but Vestas appears to be banking solidly on a strong U.S. market to push it forward. All in all, the company expects to employ 2,350 people in Colorado (or 2,450 - depending on which AP story you believe). Some of those individuals were most recently employed in delivering a blade to the Democratic National Convention, to curry favor rather than spin, and it will soon travel to Minneapolis to visit the folks from the other side of the aisle.

But not only fair winds blow in Vestas’ direction. As the wind power revolution blasts forward, a recent report suggests that the turbine-repair revolution is lagging much farther behind. According to a survey conducted by Frontier Pro Services, wind farm operators are failing to perform the preventative maintenance, such as making oil changes and lubricating gearboxes, needed to keep the gears from wearing down. The challenges are understandable: the turbines tend to be located in remote locations, the towers are exceedingly tall, and a shortage of skilled technicians makes routine maintenance an unlikely and expensive chore. But with a spate of buckling turbines and cracked blades earlier this year, those wind farm owners might wish to take note.

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Comments

This isn't an issue of inexpensive labor but a means of reducing transportation costs. Blade layup requires skilled labor attentive to quality control.

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