Wind is a bourgeoning industry, one in which promising developments, such as First Wind’s opening of the 57-megawatt Stetson wind farm in Maine this week, are common these days. But if you dig a little deeper, past some of the rosier press releases, it’s clear the industry is far from immune to the current economic crisis.
Layoffs are mounting at wind companies, following in the footsteps of their solar counterparts. Carpinteria, Calif.-based Clipper Windpower is the latest, laying off 90 workers at its Ceder Rapids, Iowa, plant. Gamesa, a Madrid-based turbine maker, is laying off about 180 workers at its plant in Fairless Hills in eastern Pennsylvania, although the company is also building up operations in the western part of the state, expanding its Ebensburg facility to handle bigger, next-generation turbines.
Fargo, N.D.’s DMI Industries, part of diversified manufacturer Otter Tail Corp., announced that it’s laying off 20 percent of its workers across its three plants in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Ontario.
And even the top dogs are feeling the pain. The head of Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s No. 1 turbine maker, recently told the
Guardian that the global downturn is cutting demand for its products. The Dutch company’s CEO, Ditlev Engel, said its excess manufacturing capacity has hit 15 percent, with demand falling far short of previous projections.
There’s no word on whether there could be any layoffs at Vestas, but we could find out soon when the company releases its 2008 year-end results early next month.
As for Newton, Mass.-based First Wind — it hasn’t announced any laid-off workers, but it’s still sitting on an initial public offering that it filed last August. The company has yet to set any terms in what has become a much more tumultuous marketplace since it first filed.