Nova Scotia

N.S. wind turbine plant lands first contract

The new Daewoo wind turbine plant in Trenton, N.S., has landed its first contract, its sales director confirmed Thursday.
Work is continuing to transform the former TrentonWorks railcar manufacturing plant for Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. (CBC)

The new Daewoo wind turbine plant in Trenton, N.S., has landed its first contract, its sales director confirmed Thursday.

James Glennie said a company based outside the province has contracted Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to build towers for turbines that will be set up somewhere in Nova Scotia.

He said a formal announcement will be made in about a month.

Glennie wouldn't say how many towers will be built, but he said the order is a small one, amounting to about three or four months of manufacturing time.

"The nature of the grid in Nova Scotia is such that you won't see large projects," he said after a speech to the Offshore/Onshore Technologies Association of Nova Scotia.

He said Daewoo is close to signing two other contracts, which has come as a surprise, considering the plant isn't expected to start production until later this month.

The wind energy industry is in the midst of a slump, but the Trenton plant should be kept busy because the Nova Scotia government is requesting proposals for more wind farms, Glennie said.

Last October, the province announced Nova Scotia Power and Daewoo had agreed to work together to build and use made-in Nova Scotia wind towers and blades.

"We're in a tough market, but there's still an awful lot of interest in wind energy, particularly in this part of the world," Glennie said.

He told the industry group that Daewoo is hoping to build towers for the growing wind energy market in the northeastern United States. As well, there is the potential to supply towers for offshore wind farms, given the rapidly developing technology for super-conducting transmission cables.

"It's a long-term talking process," he said. "When you're talking about heavy industry, safety and quality are paramount. There's a long discussion and negotiation process."

The former TrentonWorks railcar manufacturing plant closed in 2006, but the Korean company revived the operation last year after the Nova Scotia government agreed to invest $60 million in a $90-million refit.

The province has a 49 per cent equity stake in the operation.

Conversion of the plant began last August.

The plant has been outfitted with huge plasma cutters for ripping steel sheets, giant rollers for shaping tower components and heavy-lift cranes capable of lifting up to 40 tonnes.

About 90 people are now working at the refurbished plant. If the wind energy market picks up, the plant could employ over 350 workers by 2012-2013, Glennie said.

Earlier this year, company officials said up to 400 workers are expected to be hired by the time the operation is ready to manufacture turbine blades, probably by the end of the year.

However, Glennie said the company is still assessing that option.

The Trenton operation is Daewoo Shipbuilding's first foray into manufacturing for the wind energy sector.

In 2009, the company acquired DeWind Inc., an American wind turbine engineering company.