By Mark Del Franco, June 20, 2013, North American Windpower
The late extension of the production tax credit (PTC) has certainly crimped wind development activity this year. However, Washington-based Port of Vancouver USA says it is beginning to see some rumblings of activity regarding turbine component shipments slated for U.S. projects.
Alastair Smith, the POV’s senior director of marketing and operations, tells NAW that by the time the PTC was extended in early January, turbine original equipment manufacturers were long out of their production cycle.
And when the PTC was finally extended, there was no definition of what it meant to begin construction. “That affected us too,” he explains. “We had no movement of wind components of any kind until two months ago.”
Smith says the only request to move turbine components came from Ralls Corp., the developers behind a group of proposed Oregon wind projects whose contracts were later nullified by the Obama administration out of national security concerns.
The developers later named Obama in a lawsuit. As the lawsuits began, the 20 towers and 10 nacelles slate for the wind projects idly sat at the port.
“Last summer, the turbine shipments just stopped,” Smith recalls, adding that Ralls Corp. has only recently begun to relocate some towers and nacelles to Colorado.
Slowly, the trend could be changing, however. Citing discussion with industry participants as well as internal forecasts, Smith anticipates more project announcements soon.
“In talking to customers, we hear anecdotally that project activity will begin,” Smith says. “We are just not sure at this point where the components are headed.”
For its part, the POV has a bit more certainty for projects planned closer to home. Although the project has not been finalized, Smith expects the POV to handle turbine components for Phase II of the Lower Snake River wind farm.
The wind farm, which will be powered by 116 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines, was acquired by Portland General Electric earlier this month.
Still, he says, the U.S. wind market remains challenging, specifically as it relates to imports of wind towers made in China and Vietnam.
Last year, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that the U.S. wind industry was materially injured by dumped and subsidized imports of utility-scale wind turbine towers from China and Vietnam.
The U.S. Department of Commerce later levied steep antidumping and counter-vailing duties on wind towers emanating from China and Vietnam.
Since then, shipments destined for U.S. wind farms have all but stopped, Smith explains. “With 90 to 100 percent duties levied on top of the purchase, the price for one of those is now about the same as a tower made in the U.S.”
While the fines have helped level the playing field for U.S. tower producers, the POV has been significantly impacted. Smith says tower shipments from China and Vietnam comprised the lion’s share of the wind components handled by the port. To fill the void, the POV has recently devised a way for components to continue arriving at the port – but be shipped to Canada without being subject to dumping and countervailing duties.
Despite the slowdown in the U.S. market, the Canadian wind market remains robust. Led by Alberta and British Columbia, shipments to Canada are moving briskly. As evidence, Smith says the POV will handle 52 Vestas towers stated for the 300 MW BlackSpring Ridge Wind Farm, located in Alberta, later this summer or early fall.
He credits the POV’s recent enhancements to its rail and crane infrastructure – as well as its proximity to the Columbia River Gorge system – for its success with Canadian shipments.