Local business, S. Korean firm to work on wind farm

2009-12-16T15:30:00Z Local business, S. Korean firm to work on wind farmBy KAREN RIVEDAL krivedal@madison.com 608-252-6106 madison.com

A local wind energy business is introducing a major new international player into the wind industry in North America, starting with a six-turbine wind farm expected to be built northwest of Madison next year.

Wave Wind LLC of Sun Prairie, formed in 2007, is partnering with Hyundai Heavy Industries — the world’s largest ship builder and a diversified industrial manufacturer based in Seoul, South Korea, with more than $15 billion in annual sales — to develop the wind farm and perhaps up to 15 other projects throughout the country.

“We’re bringing them into the market,” said Tim Laughlin, president and co-founder of Wave Wind, at 4589 Highway TT. “It’s important for us to do this, and it’s great for the wind industry.”

Under the agreement forged between the two companies this fall, HHI will make the parts for the six turbine generators — in that company’s first-ever foray into turbine manufacturing — and Wave Wind will transport the pieces from the port of Houston to Wisconsin.

Wave Wind then will assemble the generators, together with blades and towers made by U.S. manufacturers, and erect the structures on leased farmland permitted for wind energy and located about 15 miles northwest of Madison. Laughlin said he couldn’t be more specific about the site because the legal details were still being finalized.

It will be the first wind farm owned and operated by Wave Wind, which previously has been more of a service provider for clients including wind farm developers and turbine manufacturers. The company has completed 26 jobs in 12 states and two foreign countries since 2007, most of them involving turbine assembly or maintenance for small to mid-sized wind projects, plus some project planning and material handling, transport and storage.

Currently, Wave Wind employees are building 11 turbines on-site for the second phase of a $55 million wind project in Nicaragua that will provide about 10 percent of the country’s energy needs, developers said. It’s the company’s third project outside the U.S., following turbine maintenance jobs in Costa Rica and Guantanamo, Cuba.

For the wind farm northwest of Madison, Wave Wind is supposed to take delivery of the parts in May, and hopes to have the wind farm operating by early August. Each turbine will have a rotor diameter of almost 232 feet and a hub height of about 262 feet. The farm will generate nearly 10 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 5,000 households for a year, Laughlin said.

Wave Wind will own and operate the wind farm — likely with some corporate investors who want renewable energy as part of their portfolios — and will sell the electricity generated back to the utility grid. Laughlin said it would take eight or nine years before the farm, which will cost about $19 million to build, sees any profits.

But money isn’t his main motivation, he said.

“I feel I’m obligated to put up as many turbines as I can and reduce my (carbon) footprint,” said Laughlin, a wind industry veteran whose company mission statement heralds its support for a “clean, renewable future powered by wind energy.”

What’s more, Laughlin added, “We feel HHI is going to be a huge power in this market, and this way we’re able to latch onto them when they’re new (in the wind industry) and mold them the way we want.”

Dionne Lummus, Wave Wind’s business development coordinator, noted that HHI and Wave Wind have no binding deal to work together on wind projects beyond the one next year. And plenty of challenges face any wind farm development, including financing, permitting and sometimes stiff resistance by neighbors with concerns about safety, quality of life and property values.

But Lummus and Laughlin hope the collaboration with HHI will continue and expand. They have bids in for 15 future U.S. jobs planned by HHI, Lummus said, and ideally Wave Wind would like to get the turbine construction and maintenance contract for all HHI projects in the U.S., in return for Wave Wind setting up meetings for HHI with key contacts in the wind industry and possible clients for its turbine sales.

Wave Wind already has begun doing that, with a business development tour it hosted last month for HHI leaders. They saw several potential wind development sites in Wisconsin, met with other business leaders and met with Gov. Jim Doyle for a pitch about the state’s commitment to renewable energy jobs, said Laughlin, who together with company co-founder Robert Heinemann has 40 years’ experience in the wind industry and construction business.

“They really needed a strategic partner here in the U.S., and we’ve opened doors for them,” Lummus said about HHI. “The idea is that we’ll make the introductions, they’ll sell their turbines, we get the maintenance and construction part, and everybody wins.”

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