Help Wanted at Kansas Wind Blade Company

July 16, 2010

Last year, Israel Sanchez, a 31-year-old Newton, Kan., resident, was painting the blades of wind turbines for Enertech, Inc., a small-scale wind manufacturer.  Now he's assembling the entire system.

"They promoted me," says Sanchez, taking a quick break from the assembly line in the 10,000 square-foot plant in Newton.  "It's a new field for me, but I'm excited because it's all new experiences every day."

Sanchez is assembling Enertech's new wind models using an innovative blade design licensed from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., on its 40 kW turbines.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, small-scale wind systems can save residents and small businesses up to 20 percent on their utility bills, depending on wind speed in the area and how many systems are running.

The small business, located about 15 miles from Wichita, Kan., received a 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit worth over $157,000 to accommodate the development, production and assembly of the new models—which have designs similar to aircraft wings. 

"Every little bit helps," says Dale Jones, president of Enertech. "[The federal tax credit] helped in two regards: obviously we are hiring people, like Israel, to build the blades and it also helps NREL with their endeavors to bring government-funded technology to the marketplace."

NREL's airfoil technology increases the aerodynamic efficiency of the blades and therefore energy output. Enertech, which has been in the small-scale wind business since 1971, makes systems for homes, farms, businesses and schools.

Enertech believes in recycling—even for wind turbines. The company uses decommissioned systems to construct new ones. The company’s “44 Series” has new blades, controls and nacelles, but has rebuilt gear box and rewound generators.

For the $500,000 project, the company called upon aviation engineers in Wichita, a city that has one of the largest aviation industries in the country, to help develop production methods and test the new blades at its facility.

A prototype was installed in May by the team and passed all the tests.  Production of the new systems started this month. 

With a goal of 300 units a year, the company needs to bring on more people to help produce them, Jones says.

Help wanted

"Enertech is hiring!" declares an electronic help wanted sign on the company's website. The company has added six new employees in the last eight months, boosting its workforce to 20, and aims to hire six more workers soon.

Sanchez used to work at Bunting Mechanics, a manufacturer of metals and plastics, but moved over to Enertech late last year to help with blade painting.  When Enertech's management realized the company was going to expand, they decided to train Sanchez on production. After weeks of mentoring, Sanchez was officially on the assembly line.

"I learn something new all the time, and I'm just glad that I got a chance to do this," Sanchez says. "It seems like a growing field, and I would like to stay in it."