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Vestas sets wind turbine sales record, plans to keep Colorado plants busy

DENVER JOURNAL (By Cathy Proctor) | Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer that employs thousands of Coloradans, notched a record-breaking year in 2017, with more than 10,691 megawatts worth of orders from customers around the world.

That beats the 2016 figure of 10,494 megawatts on a global basis, which had been a company record. And the final figure for 2017’s order book is likely to climb even higher.

Vestas said the 10,691 megawatts worth of orders globally, enough to support the power demands of more than 3.2 million U.S. homes, represents orders announced by the company during 2017, as well as previously unannounced orders that were placed in the first nine months of 2017.

The company said it will disclose the final 2017 tally, including unannounced orders filed in the fourth quarter of 2017, in its annual report released in February.

In 2017, Vestas announced 2,916 megawatts worth of U.S. wind turbine orders, down 7.6 percent from 2016, when the company announced 3,155 megawatts worth of U.S. orders.

The drop is likely due to the scheduled phase-out of the federal Production Tax Credit, which offered a credit of $24 per megawatt hour of power produced from wind farm projects that began in 2016. The credit dropped to 80 percent of the credit for projects that began in 2017 and will continue to drop over the next two years to 60 percent for projects starting in 2018, and 40 percent for projects starting in 2019.

A U.S. order, filed last week, for 190 megawatts worth of turbines, each capable of generating up to 4 megawatts worth of electricity, pushed the company past the 2016 mark. Vestas announced the order late Friday, although the customer’s name and the wind farm’s location were not disclosed.

Orders for customers in North America will keep Vestas roughly 3,500 employees in Colorado busy. Vestas operates four manufacturing plants in the state: a towers plant in Pueblo, a nacelles plant in Brighton and two blades plants — one in Brighton and a second in Windsor.

Vestas said that each American-made wind turbine supports 30 jobs over the course of its lifetime through the production, supply chain, construction, and operation of the wind projects.

Among the flurry of orders Vestas announced in the waning days of 2017 was its first U.S. order for the company’s V116-2.0 megawatt model turbine. Vestas said the 66 megawatts worth of ordered turbines, which will be built in Colorado, have longer blades compared to other models. Each turbine is capable of sweeping an area that’s 11 percent larger than the V11-2.0 megawatt model, generating up to 4 percent more energy compared to the V111 model..

“The 2 MW platform has been key to our success in the U.S. and by debuting the V116-2.0 MW turbine in North America, we underline the platform’s continued competitiveness here,” said Chris Brown, president of Vestas sales and service at its Portland, Oregon-based North American division.

“The turbines will be built at Vestas Colorado factories and will support nearly 30 jobs a piece in the production, construction, and operation of the project,” Brown said.

Delivery of the V116-2.0 megawatt turbines is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2018, Vestas said.

The company also announced last week an 300 megawatt order for a Canadian wind farm that will feature the tallest wind turbine towers in North America — 433 feet high.

The order, the largest Vestas has received in Canada to date, calls for 87 of Vestas V136-3.45 megawatt turbines for the Henvey Inlet wind farm in Ontario.

Vestas also announced last week it received an order for 184 megawatts of its 3.6 megawatt and 4 megawatt wind turbines destined for the 201-megawatt Montague wind project in Oregon, which will be Apple Inc.’s largest source of renewable energy.

The order calls for 41 of Vestas’ V136-3.45 megawatt turbines that have been optimized to product up to 3.6 megawatts worth of power apiece.

A Vestas spokeswoman told the Portland Business Journal last week that the “Colorado factories are currently installing and implementing V136 production lines to support the North American market.”

Vestas said a portion of the order, 36 of Vestas 4-megawatt turbines, will qualify 80 percent of the federal wind Production Tax Credit, which had been a target of early versions of the Republican-backed tax reform bill. The final version of the bill kept an existing schedule for the credit to be phased out.

Projects that started in 2016 can receive a credit worth $23 for every megawatt hour of power produced during the first 10 years of operation. Projects started in 2017 can receive 80 percent of that amount, or $19.20 per megawatt hour.


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