Wind Energy in the Waco, TX Area
A Kosse, Texas-based company is taking advantage of booming interest in alternative energy with a new subsidiary in McGregor in McLennan County that is building towers for wind turbines.
RTLC Wind Industries Inc. built its 180,000-square-foot plant on 150 acres it bought in the city’s industrial park.
Demand for wind towers has been exceeding supply, and major turbine makers reached out to RTLC before the building was finished, says Tim O’Neil, the company’s special projects manager.
“The plant will have a capacity of 200 to 400 towers a year, depending on their size,” he says.
The company won’t have trouble finding buyers. The American Wind Energy Association says the United States is now the world’s largest market for new wind-power installations.
“Clearly, there is strong demand and potential for wind power here in the U.S. There are also tremendous pressures and challenges on the supply chain, both to keep up with demand and to produce the equipment in a country where there still is no stable policy commitment to support wind-power development,” says association spokesman Christine Real de Azua.
Parent company RTLC Industries Inc. knows a bit about big metal pipes. Since 1995, it has been supplying large-diameter piping for irrigation, water, sewer and pumping systems, including replacement pipes for pumping stations in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
RTLC broke ground on the new $10 million facility in August 2008.
For the wind towers, RTLC will bring in flat plate steel and roll it into sections of 80 to 90 feet each, O’Neil says. Each tower will have three to four sections.
Texas already is home to huge wind fields in the Sweetwater area, and the McGregor site provides easy access to them along U.S. Highway 84, O’Neil says.
The region has a solid pool of qualified workers, he says, plus the McGregor Industrial Park, more than 9,500 acres on a former Naval Weapons Reserve plant, also will have rail access.
The city agreed to put in rail lines as part of its negotiations with RTLC, says Leo Conner, director of the McGregor Economic Development Corp. “To not put rail into a 15-square-mile industrial park did not make sense,” he says.
McGregor also sold the land to RTLC at a discount, based on the number of expected jobs. The first phase will create about 80 jobs, including welders, fitters, computer operators, accountants and office staff. The company plans to expand, with a goal of producing 800 towers a year.
“Wind could produce 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, up from 1 percent today,” says de Azua of the wind energy association.