Material supplier Diab AB is boosting manufacturing capacity, in part to meet demand for windmill blades.
"We were forecasting growth in the wind-energy market, but once the California crisis occurred it added fuel to the fire," said Marco Zvanik, wind-energy manager with the Diab unit in DeSoto, Texas.
Diab's PVC foam and end-grain balsa cores are used in blade construction.
"We are seeing a tremendous amount of growth," which includes domestic programs along the Washington-Oregon border and in west Texas and California, Zvanik said in a telephone interview. Operators are specifying bigger blades and larger turbines.
Diab added a 30-foot-by-10-foot computer numerically controlled table to its kit-cutting operation and added a second sheet-cutting line in DeSoto.
Also, the Texas plant added two new PVC foam block-curing chambers that increase curing capacity by 50 percent. Diab upgraded existing PVC foam expansion tanks and added a tank to increase block production capabilities.
During 2000, the corporation invested more than $10 million for capital improvements at plants in DeSoto; Laholm, Sweden; and Longarone, Italy, and more expansion is planned. Last year's effort increased Diab's worldwide capacity by 40 percent for PVC foam blocks and 50 percent for pre-cut core material kits.
Diab's expansion program focused primarily on the Longarone plant in 1999, Laholm in 2000 and DeSoto this year.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of Tokyo uses Diab's PVC foam to make blades in Japan for turbines in a Texas facility, Zvanik said, but transportation costs become a barrier as blades get longer.
Domestic blade production is limited but under pressure to expand from utility-driven turbine farms. LM Glasfiber A/S of Lunderskov, Denmark, makes blades in Grand Forks, N.D. Molded Fiber Glass Cos. of Ashtabula, Ohio, has a blade plant in Gainesville, Texas, and TPI Composites Inc. makes blades in Warren, R.I.
Two other international turbine companies are seeking vendors to make large quantities of blades in the United States, Zvanik said.
"They have gone to four different companies that have the potential to build blades," he said.
Investment house Atle AB of Stockholm, Sweden, owns Diab.
Baltek Corp. of Northvale, N.J., is Diab's largest domestic competitor.