Akron - The nation's No. 2 wind turbine manufacturer spent most of this week in the state looking for parts makers.
California-based Clipper Windpower's search culminated Thursday at a luncheon at the University of Akron attended by about 50 Ohio companies with the know-how to turn out the myriad precision parts that go into the behemoth turbines.
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"If we can find suppliers we can partner with, we'll do it," Todd Windeknecht, Clipper' s strategic commodity leader, told a crowd of about 80 at the Martin University Center on the UA campus. "We are looking for long-term agreements, at least five years."
Clipper built its first wind turbine in 2005, six in 2006 and 125 this year. It has already taken orders through 2011, said Windeknecht, describing the rate of increase as "vertical."
The company has built a turbine works in Iowa, where the requirement that utilities generate a portion of their power from renewable sources like wind has created a boom in wind farms. The turbine works employs 350. "We are hiring 30 to 40 people a week," Windeknecht said.
The industry is facing critical shortages in gears, bearings, towers and turbine blades, he said. Clipper on its own already has contracts with about a dozen Ohio firms. Windeknecht and two colleagues spent most of Thursday afternoon in one-on-one interviews with interested parts makers.
The event was the brainchild of the Cleveland-based WIRE-Net, a manufacturing advocacy organization that has created the Great Lakes Wind Network to help companies such as Clipper, General Electric and a bevy of foreign turbine makers see what Ohio has to offer.
Ed Weston, director of the network, said U.S. wind turbine production is expected to grow by 913 percent over the next four years.
The market potential for turbine supply chain companies has been estimated at $22 billion, he said.
Weston also invited Ohio Department of Development experts on wind and other renewable energies to the conference. The department has about $1 million to assist renewable energy development, and the staffers were meeting privately with interested companies.
Gov. Ted Strickland's electricity reform bill includes a provision that the state's utilities, by 2025, generate at least 25 percent of the power they sell here from renewable and other advanced technologies - a strategy he hopes will land an assembly plant in the state and generate thousands of new jobs, not only in turbine assembly but in the supply chain.
Utilities oppose or only marginally support the governor's bill. After six weeks of hearings, the Senate amended the bill in a way that wind advocates argue means wind farms will not be built here.
The Ohio House leadership expects to spend the entire winter considering the bill.