Broadwind Energy Inc.
Broadwind Energy Inc. (Broadwind) is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ:BWEN), supplying the energy industry for over a decade. The business is the culmination of several acquisitions and mergers over years past and today employs nearly 900 people. Today, those combined resources allow Broadwind to provide innovative and comprehensive solutions for a wide range of markets, including oil, gas, mining, renewable energy and a number of industrial applications.
Peter Duprey, president and CEO of Broadwind, has been involved in renewable energy for over a decade. His experience includes several years as head of business development for GE Energy’s renewable energy program. Duprey led the well-known corporation into wind and solar power, building valuable skills, experience and relationships during his time there. Duprey also served as CEO of Acconia Energy North America until 2010 when he took on a leadership position at Broadwind.
Today, Broadwind is a leading supplier for several sectors of the energy industry. “We are manufacturers, fabricators and service providers for the power and energy market,” Duprey summarizes. “A few years ago, we started diversifying into other markets, such as oil and gas and mining. With our experience in fabricating large industrial components, these new markets were a natural extension of our business. Given our 90 years of experience in precision gearing, our services team tends to focus on wind turbine drivetrains. ”
Broadwind offers a range of services in the wind energy market. Since 2003, the business has been constructing steel towers for wind turbines. With fabrication experience spanning three decades, the crew has designed and constructed towers for all the major wind turbine manufacturers. In total, the business’ portfolio includes the construction of thousands of towers throughout the country.
Broadwind offers end-of-warranty inspections for customers, ensuring that turbines function properly. If issues come up in the inspection, the crew is prepared to repair and service turbines through a range of specialty services. The team also has extensive experience in blade inspections, repair and enhancements to improve energy capture.
Customers have come to rely on Broadwind to help with more complex maintenance and repair services around the drivetrain, blades and other major components.
In the mining, oil and gas and industrial markets, the Broadwind team offers diverse fabrication, gearing and repair services. One of the crew’s higher growth segments is in industrial welding.
In addition to wind towers, Broadwind’s skilled team of experienced welders fabricates mining buckets, equipment chassis and pressure tanks. With the resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S., these types of components are in greater demand.
As a result of Broadwind’s experience in wind towers, the crew won the opportunity to build North America’s tallest flagpole – over 400 feet tall – for a customer in eastern Wisconsin. The company has shown that it is very versatile in the types of products it can fabricate.
On the gearing side of the business, Broadwind produces complex loose gearing and completed gearboxes. Most of the gearing is 36 inches, or larger, in diameter. The company manufactures gearing for mud and frack pumps, gearboxes used in steel manufacturing, gearing used in off highway wheel housings and replacement gearing used in wind turbines. The company recently produced a gearbox for a test lab that measured 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
The gearing business also provides heat treating and finishing services to strengthen the steel once the gear is cut and has a full-service metallurgical lab with in-house non-destructive inspection. These testing capabilities include: ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle and nital etch inspection, hardness testing, Barkhausen Noise Analysis and destructive testing and evaluation services.
For mining applications, the crew can also perform destructive testing and evaluation services. This full range of evaluation capabilities allows Broadwind to work closely with customers and collaborate on the gearbox design.
Broadwind’s industrial welding business segment is growing fast. “We have a focus on a few key markets,” says Joe Reisinger, vice president of product development. “We have established a solid presence in the mining industry, building sub-components across a number of product lines for a leading original equipment manufacturer [OEM] of mining equipment for the past few years.”
Recent work at the company’s Wisconsin and Texas facilities includes producing components for drill hole rigs, large dipper buckets and engine skeletons associated with rope shovel equipment. These are large steel structures that lend to the company’s breadth of fabrication capabilities.
In the oil and gas industry, the crew has undertaken a strategic initiative to attract new customers by developing the capability to produce pressure vessels. “These vessels are used primarily in the production of oil and gas,” Reisinger elaborates. “There are a number of pieces of equipment used once a well is in place producing natural gas or crude out of the ground. We are actively working with companies that need these components and acting as the fabricator for those products. One piece we are specifically involved in fabricating is a three-phase separator. As the commodity comes out of the ground, there are always constituents mixed into it, often water, sand and other contaminants. This separation equipment pulls those components apart.”
The company recently signed a partnership agreement with Italian technology company SAFE S.p.A., which has a global presence with gas compression equipment and an emphasis on fueling systems for natural gas vehicles and high horsepower compression packages for the oil and gas industry.
“This is an area that is new to the company,” Reisinger says. “We are bringing in new capabilities now through this venture where our partner designs the compression system and provides a compressor and then we build the entire package and test the final product.” This is a major step forward for the company and Reisinger says he and his team are proud to be able to deliver complete engineered solutions through this partnership.
In the company’s gearing division, Broadwind is again working with leading OEMs, in the oil and gas industry. Many of Broadwind’s contributions can be categorized as exploration or production products. The team has been producing gearing elements for pressure pumping and draw-works equipment over the last few years.
“In this industry there is a trend of rig modernization right now,” Reisinger notes. “As rigs get rebuilt, companies are deploying more advanced designs. We have been able to participate in this trend through the application of our gearing elements.”
While Reisinger notes that the steel industry is a more mature industry, aging infrastructure has opened up opportunities for fabrication and gearing capabilities. “The equipment is in a pretty demanding application and requires maintenance on a periodic basis,” he explains. “Our customized gearboxes can be interchanged into the existing footprint of a steel production plant. Many of these facilities have been in place for more than 50 years. Our customers have specific requirements in terms of the torque and power needed to drive their production lines. We can work with them through our engineering staff to design gearboxes that fit those requirements, as well as the geometric footprint available to work with.”
Broadwind has seen a lot of growth and diversification over the last few years. To help keep up with expansion while maximizing value for customers, the team continues to enhance internal efficiencies. The company completed a major consolidation initiative in 2014 and the executive team is upping the ante in terms of production and services.
In 2013, the gearing business purchased a new five-axis milling machine. The crew uses this advanced equipment to cut gears. “It gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to cut a variety of gears in an efficient manner,” Reisinger explains. “We have replaced some of our older equipment in order to have key differentiation in our market. While we still have some of the older equipment, when used in conjunction with the more advanced five-axis mill, we can increase our through-put and reduce cycle times by using both types of technology in concert.”
Despite major transformations over the last decade, Broadwind maintains a strong commitment to its mission. “We strive to work in close collaboration with our customers from concept to final delivery,” Duprey says. “We want to offer valued-added products and services to our customers. To do that, we want to understand the importance of quality, life-cycle cost and the cost of down time to better understand how we can design higher value-added products. We want to build lasting relationships through joint cost savings initiatives while we work on projects together.”
This strong sense of value creation and prioritization of relationships are major factors in the continued success of the business. The Broadwind team has seen strong growth patterns in several markets over the last few years and opportunities continue to present themselves.
While providing innovative products and services to new and repeat customers, Duprey and his management team are also working to support growth in domestic job markets. Broadwind Energy Inc. supports a stronger economy by creating full-time jobs that pay well and support other growing industries within the United States.