Birkholz district gets a wind energy manufacturing grant

August 6, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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A combined state/federal grant for a wind turbine manufacturing project in her district has been announced by State Sen. Patty Birkholz of Saugatuck Township.

Dowding Machining LLC in Eaton Rapids will partner with URV USA to produce next-generation wind turbine components. In support of that plan, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded a Centers of Energy Excellence designation and $3.5 million in funding for the project, and the U.S. Department of Energy will add $4 million to that in matching funds.

“I’m pleased that a business in Eaton Rapids was selected for this project,” said Birkholz, whose district includes Allegan, Barry and Eaton Counties. She serves on the Senate Energy Policy Committee.

“This will bring new manufacturing jobs to Michigan and help us grow our economy,” said Birkholz, noting that the innovative manufacturing technique involved “is not happening anywhere else in the country, but only here in mid-Michigan.”

URV USA is a subsidiary of a Finnish supplier of cast-iron wind turbine components.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved the COEE designation and $3.5 million in state funding for the project, in which URV USA will collaborate with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in supporting a foundry in Eaton Rapids 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.

Astraeus Wind Energy, a cooperative venture between MAG Industrial Automation System and Dowding Machining, has already committed to purchasing a large portion of URV USA’s initial output to fill existing and projected orders for machining large, utility-scale turbine hubs and bedplates. North America is facing a severe shortage of large-cast wind turbine components, with supplies now coming mostly from out-of-date foundries in Europe and Asia, according to the MEDC. With its new technology, URV USA will have a clear cost advantage in supplying hub and bedplate castings compared to traditional foundries.

In 2008, the MSF board awarded up to $43 million to six designated Centers of Energy Excellence. At the end of 2009, Granholm signed legislation that established a second phase of the COEE program, allowing for up to $30 million more to fund additional centers. In total, there are now 11 Centers of Energy Excellence, including Energetx Composites in Holland, a division of S2 Yachts Inc. that manufactures composite blades for large, commercial-size wind turbines.

For information on how companies can apply for funding under the COEE program, visit www.michiganadvantage.org/COEE

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