Granholm: Wind Turbine Supplier Expanding Michigan Operations

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A Finnish manufacturer of wind turbine castings will expand its Michigan operations in Eaton Rapids to accommodate increased market demand.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm made the announcement in Stockholm, Sweden Wednesday as part of a European trade mission.

While initial plans called for a 40,000 metric ton plant, URV USA now plans to increase its capacity to 80,000 metric tons, which will double the number of direct jobs being created by 2014 to 276.

Pending financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the company’s foundry could grow to 160,000 metric tons, creating more than 550 jobs. It would be the largest specialized foundry for wind turbine castings in the world, supplying two-thirds of the big castings market in North America.

“The URV USA foundry in Eaton Rapids will ultimately quadruple in size to develop a next-generation casting process that produces large, utility-scale wind turbine components,” Granholm said.  “This new technology has the potential to revolutionize the way wind turbines are made, and would put URV USA on the forefront of wind technology, with the potential to create even more jobs in Michigan.”

In July, the state of Michigan approved a Centers of Energy Excellence designation and $3.5 million in funding for URV USA, a company based in Finland with operations in Sweden. The company is collaborating with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a next-generation casting process to produce large, utility-scale wind turbine components.  Michigan Technological University will assist with alloy development, casting gating system design and solidification simulation.  The project is slated to receive $4 million in matching funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“This project further demonstrates that Michigan’s core strengths in advanced manufacturing can bring innovation and cost-competitiveness to the wind-energy sector,” said Michigan Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Greg Main. “The Centers of Energy Excellence program fosters public-private partnerships that leverage our strengths in research and development, our highly-skilled workforce and our manufacturing infrastructure.” 

On Friday, MEDC officials led by Main will visit URV’s affiliate in Karlstad, Sweden, HeavyCast, before returning to Michigan.

U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun voiced support for the job-creating efforts by the Granholm administration. 

“Governor Granholm and the state of Michigan are demonstrating to the world the role global partnerships can play in creating jobs back home,” Barzun said. “The strides to create a clean energy economy have proven to be successful in Sweden just as they are proving to be successful in Michigan, and will add another chapter to our ongoing environmental cooperation through the Swedish American Green Alliance.”

According to company officials, the project will significantly improve the state of renewable energy system manufacturing through improved quality, performance, and production capacity for wind energy system components.

“By producing these advanced process castings, URV USA can fill the void in domestic wind energy system component production critical for high volume, very high speed machining processes, as well as promote job creation and clean energy infrastructure development,” said Pekka Kemppainen, URV Managing Director, who met with Granholm in Stockholm. “With our new technology, URV USA will have a clear cost advantage in supplying hub and bedplate castings compared to traditional foundries.”

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that the U.S. could continue to add as much as 5,000 megawatts of wind energy each year, and the U.S. Department of Energy is calling for more than 20 percent of America’s energy, more than 300,000 megawatts, to come from wind energy by 2030.  However, current supply of these heavy cast components is mainly coming from foundries in Europe and Asia. URV USA LLC is the wholly-owned subsidiary of the Finnish foundry Uudenkaupungin Rautavalimo Oy (URV OY).  URV OY and its affiliate, HeavyCast in Karlstad, Sweden are foundry companies selling cast iron components in Europe and worldwide. Meehanite Worldwide, also an affiliated company, is a leading U.S. casting technology and consulting corporation that has been licensing cast iron and nodular iron technology over the past 80 years to over 120 companies worldwide, 35 of which are located in United States.

Earlier Wednesday, Granholm addressed a gathering of Swedish business and government leaders on Michigan’s growing clean energy manufacturing sector at the annual conference of VINNOVA, the Swedish state agency that promotes growth and prosperity throughout Sweden. Granholm’s speech, titled “Growing Michigan’s Clean Energy Economy,” focused on Michigan’s strategies for developing and growing clean energy sectors, including bio-energy, wind energy, solar energy, and advanced battery.  Since 2008, Michigan has announced the creation of approximately 90,000 clean energy jobs from 47 companies that are investing more than $9.4 billion in the state.

This investment mission to France and Sweden is the governor’s 11th overseas investment mission since 2004. Her previous missions to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Italy and Sweden have resulted in 48 companies announcing over $1.8 billion in new investment in Michigan and 20,699 (9,244 direct) jobs created and retained.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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