Wind Power in Arkansas: 'A Manufacturing Powerhouse'

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 12:00 am  

About 10,337 megawatts of wind energy are generated in Texas, the nation's leader in wind. That's a quarter of the nation's wind power, said Peter Kelley, spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association. By comparison, Arkansas generates 0.1 megawatts.

"Other hotspots include Iowa and South Dakota," Kelley said. Turbines are being constructed en masse in Kansas, and California has set a goal to generate 33 percent of its electricity from wind. States seeking to gain wind power can either generate it themselves or import it from states with more turbines, Kelley said.

There's more coming, too: Kelley said Alabama Power Co. of Birmingham had signed a contract to generate wind power in Oklahoma.

Arkansas is a smaller player but still has an important part in the picture.

"Arkansas is a national leader in wind manufacturing," Kelley said. "Even though there's not much wind online so far in Arkansas, there's a lot more coming."

Kelley said states could participate in the wind industry in two ways, through generation or manufacturing.

"So far, Arkansas is a manufacturing powerhouse," he said. "You've got some of the wind industry's major manufacturers, and that includes the blade maker LM and turbine manufacturers like Mitsubishi and Nordex and a variety of other major component suppliers. A turbine has 8,000 parts, so it's a lengthy supply chain, needing things like cabling and bolts. It's very important, and there's a lot of job creation throughout the supply chain."

Total employment through the wind industry in the state is between 1,000 and 2,000, Kelley said, and AWEA expects that number to rise as companies expand. For example, when Nordex opened a turbine-building facility in Jonesboro in 2008, it allotted $60 million to add a blade factory at a later date.

"Mitsubishi is going to be making turbines at Chaffey Crossing," he said, although that $100 million facility was mothballed in April and its future is still in question.

The total investment in Arkansas from the wind industries in Arkansas will be about $350 million when everything's online, Kelley said, and almost 3,000 jobs should be created once it's all said and done - that is, if the industry survives the election.



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