North Vernon City Council-CEO blown away by company's success
Plain-Dealer-Sun: Barbara King
North Vernon, Ind. - Windstream Technologies has a problem many companies only dream of.
The Buckeye Street plant is sold out of inventory.
Demand for the micro-wind energy system has been even stronger than what Dan Bates, president and CEO of the company imagined when he founded the company in 2008.
"The product is really resonating," he told the North Vernon City Council Tuesday night.
"It's been a great eight months of our life cycle here in North Vernon."
Windstream's presence in the former Regal Rugs building on Buckeye Street (or Hwy. 50 East) is flagged by four of its turbines atop its entryway. This week, two of the four turbines are painted black and white in honor of the Indy 500 and the company is planning an installation at the track for the Brickyard.
The turbines are being painted "in every crazy color," continued Bates. They are red, gold and black for turbines bound for Germany; blue, yellow and red for Romania; green, red and white for Italy; and desert camouflage for turbines being installed at U.S. military bases.
Yes, the nation's military has taken a strong interest in Windstream since one of its goals is "net zero," says Bates, which means leaving a zero carbon footprint. This week, Windstream will complete an installation up at Atterbury, adding that Hoosier base to several other army compounds around the U.S.A.
The military is also interested in alternative energy sources in relationship to troop safety. Think of how many American troops have been killed by roadside IEDs in Afghanistan while driving fuel tankers to forward operating bases, explains Bates.
Windstream's leader told the Council he is particularly proud of the fact that with the exception of two components for the turbines, all parts are being manufactured in this area, with "the majority of the product being made in North Vernon. We're keeping the flow of money within the boundaries of the region," he announced.
The percentage of parts being manufactured outside this area is only about 15 percent of the total turbine's cost, and future plans call for that percentage to be slashed with at least some of that production transferred here.
Now, to make the product "even more robust" the company is working to integrate solar power on the turbines, an idea which Bates said has been percolating "for quite a while now."
In the last several months, customers have shown "a lot of interest" in the idea, since the sun is a more constant energy source than wind.
"It puts a floor underneath our energy generating capability. At least four hours per day you'll get solar energy," said Bates.
To assist the company in developing this technolgy, the City of Lawrence-burg Regional Economic Grant Program has awarded Windstream a $600,000 grant. The company's R&D site in New Albany has developed prototypes and Windstream is forging alliances with a German solar technology company.
European countries are especially interested in renewable energy, noted Bates, because "in Europe, electricity is very expensive. Germany, Italy and Romania are much more aggressive in promoting it."
Since opening the plant here in North Vernon, Windstream has really taken off, said Bates. The 30 employees have carved out roomy assembly and shipping areas, a paint room, a machine shop and a wind tunnel out of the former cavernous space.
"Basically we're doing what we said we were going to do," Bates concluded. "It has been a good, long year."
More About Us