Kansas manufacturers try to jump into the business of building wind turbines

Is wind energy a realistic new cluster for Wichita's battered manufacturing sector?

There's a lot of promise and plenty of barriers. At this point, there are mostly just questions.

"We've had tremendous interest from manufacturers," said Randi Tveitaraas Jack, who is heading the Kansas Department of Commerce's effort to create a wind industry. The commerce department helped host a conference on how local suppliers can get into the wind supply chain.

State officials say they expect a lot of questions. Kansas manufacturers said in a recent survey that their biggest barrier to entering the industry is a sheer lack of knowledge. They didn't know who to talk to or what the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) want.

Wind energy is a global industry just arriving in the United States. Locals must compete with established European and Chinese suppliers, but they do have an advantage. The OEMs don't want to keep paying to ship large turbine components from Europe and Asia. They also want to eliminate exchange rate risks.

There is almost no existing U.S. supply chain in place. Kansas has an edge among U.S. manufacturers because of its location close to the best wind farm sites.

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