Wind Power Manufacturing Rises On Brownfield

Monroe, Mich., about 40 miles south of Detroit and 20 miles north of Toledo, Ohio, in the heart of the Rust Belt, has an economic turnaround story to celebrate: A former brownfield there is now a manufacturing plant for the towers that hold wind turbines high in the breeze.

Ventower Industries recently cut the ribbon on the new plant, at the Port of Monroe. That event drew U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, whose agency can – and did – claim some credit for making the turnaround possible. The Monroe site was cleaned up as part of a federal program on brownfields, defined by the EPA as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

image via Michigan Manufacturers Assocation

Jackson said that due to $88 million in grants to communities, a billion dollars in private sector investments has been unleashed, creating about 8,700 new jobs in Michigan and, backed by training programs, 70,000 across the country.

Ventower said the location at the Port of Monroe will be a key to its success by giving it direct dock access to Lake Erie. The company said “using readily accessible waterborne, rail and truck transportation options” makes it possible to supply towers to wind-power projects “around the Great Lakes States and beyond.”

Ventower expects to employ 150 people at the Monroe plant, trained through a program with a local junior college. Also, the company announced recently that it plans to build a second plant, this one on the East Coast with a focus on the offshore wind-power market.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.