Category — Oklahoma
[Editor note: Mike Riley, editor of Fabricating & Metalworking magazine (bio at end), took a neutral look at a new major manufacturing project and offers his opinions here.]
The total government subsidy given to industrial windpower rivals the price of natural gas paid by power generators– yet wind still cannot compete without mandates. With our nation being challenged to reduce its debt and shrink the federal budget, realistic business economics is confounding the hype about this once darling of renewable energy.
New Wind Plant for Port of Muskogee?
Muskogee is an economic center in eastern Oklahoma that country singer Merle Haggard commemorated in the old country song “Okie from Muskogee,” a hit back in 1969. Now the city is better known for operating the Port of Muskogee that is located at the edge of North America’s wind corridor. This strip of land is often referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” and is one of the primary reasons why Eagle Claw Fabrication LLC chose the Port in June 2010 to build a 150,000 sq ft facility on 47 acres that will manufacture 220 to 250 wind turbines per year.
Targeting the $2 billion domestic wind farm market, Tom Word, the founder of Eagle Claw, told the daily newspaper Tulsa World that he decided on Muskogee because of its access to international inbound and outbound barge traffic through the Port, the railcar marshaling yard at the Port that connects to the Union Pacific Railroad, and interstate roads heading to wind farm sites.
That’s not all. Eagle Claw will have access to markets not otherwise accessible from an inland location. “This provides us with unique and substantive competitive advantages over other turbine tower manufacturers. We can greatly reduce the cost of transporting our product to the point of usage, including towers to be built in the Gulf of Mexico. These are substantial transportation cost savings that can be passed along to our clients,” explained Word.
$28 Million Project Delayed
The $28 million facility represents the first stage of an overall project planned for over 100 acres on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. “Phase Two, which should begin after the first year of operation, will double the size of the new plant. Then Phase 3, which will follow after another year of operation, will increase it to a total of 450,000 sq ft,” noted Word.
Phase One of the new Eagle Claw Fabrication Wind Tower Division complex will create approximately 175 jobs and was originally scheduled to begin operations as early as this spring. According to the Indian Capital Technology Center, which will coordinate a training program for Eagle Claw employees, plate operators will draw wages up to $23 per hour. There will also be openings for plate cutters, welders, fitters, painters, blasting equipment operators, and material handlers.
The new fabrication facility will utilize a “Straight-Thru-Flo” lean shop layout and use cutting edge equipment and technology. According to Word, Eagle Claw expects to devote 100 percent of its capacity to wind turbine tower construction, selling to wind turbine system manufacturers and engineering, procurement and construction firms. The plant will also have capabilities to fabricate offshore wind towers and numerous other heavy tubular structures for geothermal, tidal, solar, hydrokinetics, biomass and carbon capture industries.
All of this big news about these grand plans from a start-up fabricator in a green industry is exciting, except for one thing: Big Wind is unable to make it in the marketplace. [Read more →]
April 14, 2011 1 Comment