Urban Green Energy Targets China to Expand Wind Turbine Sales

May 24, 2011 at 7:00 am

In late 2006, Nick Blitterswyk, an actuary for JPMorgan Chase in New York, felt unfulfilled calculating the risks on clients’ pension plans. After a year of existential angst, he launched Urban Green Energy along with his wife and her mother to manufacture small wind turbines to power homes and businesses. “It sounds so cliché, but … I wanted to do something that meant something. Something to try to help the world dig out of the environmental quagmire we’re in,” he says.

Blitterswyk, who grew up exploring old-growth forests with his park warden parents on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, chose a tough market. His 125-employee New York company is battling more than 200 manufacturers worldwide that build modern-day windmills for customers looking for cleaner, cheaper alternatives to diesel-powered generators in areas off the grid. In 2009 the global market for small wind turbines, defined as those that produce 100 kilowatts or less of electricity, increased 10 percent yet accounted for less than 1 percent of the total amount of wind-generated electricity, according to the latest report from the American Wind Energy Assn., an industry trade group. Nevertheless, UGE, which launched its first product a year ago, expects to be profitable this year with $12 million in sales, up fivefold from $2.4 million in 2010, says Blitterswyk. Next year, he expects revenue to reach $30 million.

While the majority of sales last year came from the U.S. and Europe, UGE is banking on emerging economies — particularly China — for future growth. Developing countries added more wind power capacity in 2010 than traditional markets, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. China surpassed the U.S. last year in total amount of wind-generated electricity and is expected to increase output fivefold by 2020, the council says. Emerging markets are turning to wind power to diversify their energy sources and reduce imports of expensive fossil fuels.  Read more.

A. Gonsalves, Bloomberg, May 6, 2011

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