The first American Wind Week is here, and things are busier than ever at TPI Composites. The inaugural event, designed to spread awareness about the benefits of wind power is a nationwide celebration, and at TPI, Jasper County’s largest employer, wind power is more important than ever.
Wind power is what keeps TPI in business, building sets of 56.9 meter blades for wind turbines for a single customer, General Electric. The blades, which are over half the length of a football field and weigh 22,000 pounds are constructed from a mix of fiberglass and balsa wood, which gives them an incredible amount of strength and flexibility.
Each wind tower, standing at 210 feet tall, costs $2.5 million to build and assemble. Once fully operational, a wind tower is capable of providing power for more than 300 homes.
To celebrate American Wind Week locally, TPI employees will create a giant banner, as well as do volunteer work within the community to raise awareness about wind power.
More than 1,000 people work at TPI, and every week they build nine sets of three blades, which are then shipped all across North America. Inside TPI’s facility, the sanding dust lies heavy in the air as teams of employees work to complete each of the giant blades.
TPI employees hope that American Wind Week, in it’s inaugural year will raise the profile of wind energy in the United States. They know it’s important to build support with the public as well as legislators. Amy Leavitt, the community and associate relations coordinator at TPI wants to make sure she’s getting the word out about how important wind power is in Jasper County.
“We need support from legislators to keep us going,” Leavitt said. “In Iowa, we do really well. We’re very lucky to get that support.”
One of the biggest areas where businesses like TPI look for support is to maintain the production sales tax. This tax, which gives businesses a break on products and supplies that they buy overseas is critical for a company like TPI, which relies on components purchased abroad to build the blades.
“Without this, our costs would go up,” Leavitt said.
For TPI employee Tammy Farver wind power is important for what it does for the environment, but it’s also important for what it does for her community too. The Newton resident, clad in a Cardinal Pride T-shirt stood on the floor of the factory Monday morning and reflected on what TPI has meant to her.
“This is my job,” Farver said. “We’re keeping jobs here, it’s nice that good paying jobs are here in Newton, close to home.”
Farver worked at Maytag, working on the Neptune line before the factory closed in 2007. After a year riding motorcycles and taking time off, she started at TPI in 2008, making her one of the longest tenured employees at TPI, which will celebrate its ninth anniversary this month.
At TPI Farver said she feels like she’s part of something bigger than herself, as she does the final checks on each blade, sanding out the remaining rough spots and applying the finish decals. She also knows that she’s doing something that’ll have a lasting impact on the world.
“We have to do this. We need to go green,” Farver said. “It’s just so much better for the environment, you feel like you’re really contributing.”
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org