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Wind Energy Service Company keeps turbines spinning

Monday, July 6, 2009

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Launch of third strategic operation propelled by growth of on-demand composite turbine repair

INDEPENDENCE, KS - A vital sector of the booming wind power industry is in wind repair as many older turbines that have been in service for more than two decades are beginning to wear out.

Reflecting this air of progression, Wind Energy Services Company (WES) marks the inception of its FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) wind energy service and repair operations in Independence, Kansas and Sweetwater, Texas by announcing the opening of its third strategically located operation in Worthington, Minnesota.

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Slated for a grand opening in May, 2009 WES's new 5,000 square foot facility is located in the concentrated sweet spot for wind energy in the Midwest in Southwestern Minnesota; approximately 45 minutes from Sioux Falls and near the corner of Northwestern Iowa and South Dakota.

According to AWEA's annual wind energy industry rankings report, Minnesota is the third-largest wind energy producer in America; generating over 7% of their electricity from wind with 1,754 MW. In addition to Minnesota, WES's close proximity to second ranking Iowa (2,791 MW) positions it to fulfill the ensuing demand for responsive on-site wind energy composite engineering expertise-- assessing and repairing on-tower damages running the gamut of blades, nacelles, spinners and associated structural and surface components.

According to WES General Manager Ricardo Arellano, "With power generation in this region investing heavily in wind power, the need for trained wind turbine maintenance and repair experts is also growing steadily as everyone is looking for much faster service than sending parts to be repaired off-site or overseas."

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With the addition of the Worthington operation, WES now employs over 100 trained and certified composite wind repair technicians who conduct approximately 90% of repairs onsite. According to Arellano, "The key is to decrease the logistical costs of blade & nacelle repair.

Since it costs between $10-15.00 per mile to move these huge blades, WES' goal is to deliver rapid, efficient execution on repairs and retrofits on-site--wherever they need us. Ultimately, this allows us to limit downtime and cultivate a culture of manageable service in response to the growth the market continues to experience."

The company's mobile response service teams are trained and equipped to quickly assess and repair comprehensive repair issues which arise due to lightning strikes, shipping and installation damage, structural cracking, leading edge erosion and coating failure, blade balancing, and cosmetic/general warranty repair. These are handled prior to erection (shipping and handling damage), up-tower, on-site with the blade removed, and off-site for more extensive factory repairs when necessary.

As WES continues to expand, Arellano noted that training is paramount to ensuring rapid and reliable execution in the field because of the extreme conditions and hazards inherent to the job. Potential factors of endangerment include; electrical hazards, 300-foot heights, rotating mechanical equipment, extreme weather conditions, lightening storms, falling ice from a turbine during an ice storm, and high winds, etc.

All WES technicians are required to complete a comprehensive 2-3 week training and certification program covering a myriad of safety and technical disciplines including: sky-climbing, fall prevention and tower rescue, First Aid, CPR, defibrillator training along with electrical and metering safety courses.

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Since reacting to a failure or repair is typically more costly than scheduling through preventive actions, WES also provides routine/preventative inspections. Arellano emphasized that this is key to help reduce some of the maintenance cost since expensive repairs can be scheduled in advance rather than reacted upon as is typically done now in the industry.

Since new and existing wind sites have varying levels of service and repair need, WES offers flexible, need-based service programs that emphasize customer communications and cost-and-quality control service for remote locations.

According to Glenn Thuringer, Manager of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation, "This is significant progression for the region for advancing renewable energy to the next level of economic development.

The region is booming renewable energy investments with towers which give farmers another income on their land, etc. With WES's composite wind repair services, it makes it a fully realized industry." Thuringer also noted the WES operation will occupy the first of three incubator facilities Worthington's new Bioscience Park's Bioscience Training and Testing Center. With funding supported by State legislators, WES's investment in the development will support its continued growth.

Currently, the University of Minnesota is considering locating there and WES is exploring the possibility of developing a composites testing facility down the road. With established relationships with all major wind farms in the area, WES' strategic Mid-West expansion will provide rapid repair team response at critical stages including; shipping new blades, inspection, serial type and warranty repairs, etc.

According to Arellano, "Continually improving response time is essential as we can respond to a wind farm within 200 miles of our location and be there the same day; typically completing the repairs the next day. We also have the ability to do most repairs without a crane--saving clients time and money."



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