Metalwork is in high demand, helping to build tools for clean energy.
While metalworkers are struggling in traditional markets, there is a $3 billion industry with its doors wide open: wind turbine manufacturing. From bolts to gears, hydraulic systems to rebar, these components are in demand and suppliers are entering the market now.
The American Wind Energy Association says that metal components make up nearly 90 percent of the weight and more than one-third of the value of a wind turbine. To build 5,000 of the machines - about the number installed in 2008 - requires 15,000 tower sections, 2.4 million bolts and 27,000 miles of rebar.
Each wind turbine contains between 10 and 25 tons of ductile iron. Manufacturing the main shaft and gear blanks takes hammer- or press-forming facilities. Rings measuring up to 18 feet in diameter and weighing up to 12 tons require large-scale seamless ring rolling capabilities.
The rotor hub, mainframe, forward housing, and gearbox and bearing housings are iron castings, weighing from 100 pounds to 25 tons. Rotor hubs can measure 15 feet across, while bases are 16- ton bowl-shaped castings. Foundries that can produce or scale up to produce these parts are needed.
Many other parts are made of higher-grade ductile iron and must deliver failure-free performance in high wind and long exposure to the environment. Metallurgical property requirements are exacting, so foundries and metal-forming operations with superior engineering and processing capabilities are valued highly.
Fasteners, washers and dowel pins hold together tower sections, blade and hub joints, and nacelle components such as the generator and gearbox assemblies.
Hundreds of hours of large-scale precision machining are required for some of the large castings. Their assembly requires advanced welding capabilities.
If your company has capacity and expertise in manufacturing metal parts, it's likely there's a place in the wind turbine supply chain for you. Learn more by visiting the American Wind Energy Association website at: www.awea.org/valuechain/
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