Windmill blade maker LM Glasfiber announced Thursday that it signed a five-year contract to produce a minimum of 1,800 windmill blades in the U.S. for Samsung, which is launching a new line of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines.
Denmark-based Glasfiber has two factories in Little Rock and one in Grand Forks, N.D., that produce the blades. Both plants have reduced their number of workers during the recession.
Glasfiber expects to produce enough blades for 600 turbines for Samsung Heavy Industries Ltd. The turbines produce energy when magnets in them are turned by the blades, and the power can be sent into electric grids for home and commercial use.
Before the bottom fell from under the credit markets, Glasfiber had orders that would have taken a year to fill. The company was talking about expanding its plant at the Port of Little Rock.
Then, the canceled orders started flowing in, forcing Glasfiber to lay off 230 workers which left Little Rock with just 300 employees. Through attrition, Grand Forks also reduced its work force.
Wind energy is forecast to be a growth industry for several decades once the economy picks up. Glasfiber executives in Little Rock have said they can expand their facility several times over once wind energy development regains momentum.
Glasfiber spokesman Helle Larsen Andersen in Denmark said Thursday the company will decide later how to divide the Samsung blade work between Little Rock and Grand Forks. Andersen said the turbine model is still being tested, and blade production will take until the fourth quarter of 2010 to get up to speed. Glasfiber can make blades up to 220 feet long.
Glasfiber CEO Roland Sunden said the company is eager to be a part of Samsung's entry into the wind market.
"This agreement highlights LM Glasfiber's ability to contribute to strategic cooperation with leading industrial players by applying our expertise within the manufacturing and development of highly competitive rotor solutions," Sunden said.
Samsung has U.S. offices in Houston and New York. The division of Korea-based Samsung Group can use capacity in its shipbuilding facilities to make the turbines, for which the company says demand will increase.