Wind turbines turn $2.3 million in profits for Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Peter Passi Duluth News Tribune
Published Friday, May 23, 2008
Fiscal year 2007 will go down as the most profitable ever for the Duluth
Seaway Port Authority. The authority closed its fiscal books March 31 this
year, more than $2.3 million in the black, according to Chief Financial
Officer John Kubow.
The port authority's previous financial best had been fiscal year 2001, when
it reported a net profit of $837,000.
So what made fiscal year 2007 so special?
Kubow's simple explanation: "Sales of wind turbine components."
The port authority gets a cut of all revenues generated by the Clure Marine
Terminal's operator, Lake Superior Warehousing Co. Inc. And the company
handled lots of wind power equipment last shipping season, both inbound from
overseas and outbound to destinations on the East Coast and Europe.
In 2007, the American Wind Energy Association estimated between $8 billion
and $10 billion was being invested in wind power annually, much of it in the
nation's heartland, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and
Initially, the port was seeing large shipments of wind farm equipment
imported from Germany, Denmark and Spain.
As wind farms proliferate, domestic production of wind turbine and tower
equipment has been climbing, expanding the outbound component of the port's
business. Duluth also has become a conduit for North Dakota-built wind power
equipment bound for domestic and export markets.
This rapidly changing scene is fraught with opportunities and challenges,
according to Ron Johnson, the port authority's trade development director.
"It's more than a moving target," he said. "Right now, it's a blurred
Jonathan Lamb, general manager of Lake Superior Warehousing, said the
current shipping season is off to a more modest start, but based on recent
inquiries and several large wind power projects in the works, including
Minnesota Power's plans to bring 500 to 700 megawatts of wind power online
in North Dakota in the next few years, he believes the port may be able to
equal the volume of equipment it handled last year.
To handle the massive wind turbines, blades, nacelles and towers the port
has been receiving, the laydown area around the terminal has been greatly
expanded. The port authority invested about $400,000 last year to ready more
than six acres of land for the equipment. Lake Superior Warehousing also
prepared an additional 25 acres of land at the Garfield C and D docks to use
as a laydown area.
Kubow said those types of investments wouldn't be made if the port authority
and Lake Superior Warehousing weren't confident about the future.
Part of that confidence is inspired by government mandates, such as
Minnesota's requirement that utilities in the state derive 25 percent of
their power from renewable resources by 2025.
"That's what I call government-impelled cargo," Kubow said.
PETER PASSI covers business and development. He can be reached weekdays at
(218) 279-5526 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.