The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), Astraeus Wind Energy Inc. (AWE) and MAG Industrial Automation Systems (MAG) announce today a project that will be a catalyst for the advancement of the wind industry enabled by funding from the state of Michigan.
The companies have signed an agreement to collaboratively develop material-enabled automated manufacturing solutions focused on improving and enhancing the manufacture of wind turbine blade components, and finished blades, for the wind industry. The need for U.S. energy independence and economic security, coupled with the search for lower impact power sources, is driving demand for clean, alternative energy solutions like wind energy.
Also today, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board finalized a Centers of Energy Excellence designation and a $6 million grant for AWE to establish operations with an initial focus on the production of spar caps – the “backbone” of a wind turbine blade. The grant will also be used by Dow for material development and optimization, and by MAG for designing, constructing and demonstrating a prototype automated system for manufacturing the spar cap. Designed to help the state diversify into renewable energy technologies, the state funding matches U.S. federal stimulus funds AWE received in December, 2009.
Dow will couple its global skills and experience in advanced material development and application with the automated manufacturing process and equipment being developed by MAG and AWE. The material-enabled automated technology will be designed to create distinct advantages over the existing manual manufacturing process enabling wind turbine blade manufacturers to increase production rates of higher-quality components with attractive economics.
“Dow is committed to identifying and developing innovative technologies and solutions to improve the viability of alternative energy sources, “said Monty Bayer, global business director, Dow Ventures & Business Development, Licensing and Venture Capital. “This collaboration will create enhanced and innovative solutions that we believe will assist in transforming the growing wind energy industry.”
“We continue working hard to make Michigan a center for clean energy manufacturing, and this project moves us another step closer to that goal,” said Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. “Our investments in clean energy manufacturing are creating jobs and diversifying Michigan’s economy.”
The demand for wind generated power is growing driven by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) goal to increase domestic electricity production from wind power by 20 percent over the next 20 years requiring aggressive turbine volume production. A 2008 DOE report cited major challenges in reaching this goal including the need to improve reliability and operability of wind systems and increasing U.S.wind manufacturing capacity.
“The state incentive package will enable Astraeus to accelerate production plans of high quality wind turbine components,” said Jeff Metts, president of AWE. “We are excited to collaborate with Dow and MAG in this endeavor as we attempt to provide better quality solutions to the wind industry.”
Dow and MAG will initially focus on the advanced materials and automating manufacturing technology for AWE to produce spar caps, with a long-term vision for the technology to be used for both the fabrication of other wind turbine components and assembly of those components into finished wind-turbine blades. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory, will assist Dow with evaluation of the advanced materials. Dow and MAG expect to have a material-enabled automation technology solution available in 2012.
“This joint technology will be built on a solid foundation of MAG’s 30-years of leadership in the development of composite processing systems for the manufacture of aircraft components,” said Joe Jones, Executive Vice President of MAG’s Renewable Energy Group. “Combining our proven, high-tech manufacturing system with Dow’s advanced materials will result in a superior manufacturing solution.”