Astraeus Wind Energy Receives $7 Million in Funding To Build First Hub Machining Cell
Lansing, MI – Astraeus Wind Energy Inc., a new venture of MAG Industrial Automation Systems and Dowding Machining LLC, has received a $7 million grant to develop a revolutionary wind hub machining cell for high-volume manufacturing, as well as pursue development of carbon-fiber turbine blades. Astraeus was one of only five winners chosen from 80 applicants to receive the clean energy grants from the State of Michigan, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The proprietary machining system will be developed by MAG and installed at the Astraeus facility in Eaton Rapids, MI. Plans call for the system to be in production late 2010.
"This is the first step in our strategic plan to turn this industry on its head by mass producing wind turbine components more efficiently than ever thought possible," said Jeff Metts, president of Astraeus. "We intend to transform the manufacturing cost and throughput for turbine components to make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuel. This grant will help us reach one of the key goals of that transformation." The unique hub machining cell will increase production rates from the current standard of one per day to as many as five per day, Metts explained, cutting machining times from 20-24 hours per part to just over four hours.
Astraeus is also closing in on its goal to produce carbon fiber turbine blades, based on a unique new design to be licensed from a major wind turbine component manufacturer. The company is negotiating with Dow Chemical Company as well to produce a new resin that will complement the lightweight, high strength characteristics of carbon fiber. Key to the manufacturing process is a new automated lay-up and molding system developed by MAG. The new Rapid Material Placement System (RMPS) brings integrated manufacturing, with automation and repeatable process control, to wind blade fabrication, a process that has historically been manual, resulting in blades imperfections and weight variations, causing higher warranty and replacement costs.
"This is game changing technology that will take the market by storm – there will be no competition," Metts stated. Astraeus hopes to open turbine blade manufacturing plants on both coasts of Michigan, and ultimately move into materials technology for automotive, defense and municipal infrastructure applications.
"We see wind energy as a technology in transition," said Roger Cope, president of the Strategic Business Development Group of MAG. "Manufacturing output for wind energy components is on a plateau right now, limited by available technology developed during the industry's infancy, resulting in higher costs per megawatt. Our goal through Astraeus is to use new ideas, new materials and new automation technology to bring the cost for wind energy megawatts into parity with coal and nuclear power."
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