In today's story on the role foundries play in the U.S. wind industry, reporter Brian Rogal found that many of the large, metal components of a wind turbine are built overseas and imported. Backers of the domestic foundry industry hope rising shipping costs and improved technology can bring some of that business back to the U.S.
But can shaving a few percentage points off the cost of something like the tower or nacelle baseplate have a significant impact?
An analysis recently published in Windpower Engineering and Development gives us a rough idea. While the report focuses on how improvements to drivetrains can increase efficiency, it also breaks down the cost proportion of different parts of the turbine.
As you can see in the chart, the large metal components (tower, nacelle, and blades) account for nearly 80 percent of the cost of a typical turbine. Also, about 65 percent of the cost of an on-shore wind farm is the capital expense of the turbines themselves. That means the cost of wind energy is largely determined by the cost of these big castings.
Will domestic suppliers be able to increase their share of this market? As Rogal reports, at least two Midwest foundries have high hopes. But anticipating further uncertainty over the federal production tax credit, they're also hedging their bets by supplying parts to other industries.