On the road with CW
Late summer and early fall is a busy travel time for the writers and editors of CT. Several of us always stop in at the Society of Plastics Engineer's Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition — which we help sponsor in Troy, Mich. (See CT contributor and ACCE program chair Dale Brosius' observations about the SPE's 8th event can be seen by clicking the link in "Learn More," at right). As I write this, I'm just off the plane in Germany, expecting to take in Composites Europe 2008, in Essen. And as this issue crosses your desk, we'll have a crew sailing on down to the marine-oriented IBEX Show in Miami Beach, Fla.
For years, we've been observers — occasionally sponsoring media partners — at these and myriad other industry events. But this year, during the first week of September, the COMPOSITESWORLD staff traveled en masse to a new show — not as observers or media partners but as a trade show company — as the COMPOSITESWORLD Expo & Conference, made its debut, Sept. 2-5, in Schaumburg, Ill. Our goal was and is to provide North America with a trade event and educational conference that brings together under one big roof the full breadth and depth of the composites industry: suppliers and processors, from automotive and marine to wind energy and aerospace — an event that truly takes in all of the arenas in which composites are or are becoming a material force, from bed and bath to the reaches of space. Judging by our first show effort, it appears we're on the right trajectory (to access our coverage of the Expo, see "Learn More").
One of the event's many bright spots was when Chris Red, CT contributor and the editor and VP of market research for Composite Market Reports (Gilbert, Ariz.), told an overflow crowd during a lunchtime presentation on the show floor on the show's second day, that the wind energy sector, despite the current state of the U.S. economy, is easily among the composites industry's brightest spots right now. We've seen evidence of it in our own backyard: In August, Vestas announced that a second Colorado rotor blade factory and a turbine nacelle facility will be built in the Denver suburb of Brighton. This was followed by Vestas' announcement of a wind turbine tower plant in Pueblo, Colo. that will be the world's largest and produce 1,000 towers annually. The only potential dimmer? The U.S. Congress has a week to go before recessing for the year, as I write this, but has yet to renew the production tax credit (PTC). Many observers believe the PTC has fueled the recent and unprecedented wind energy expansion in which, the American Wind Energy Assn. announced in early September, U.S. installed wind energy capacity has exceeded 20,000 MW — second only to Germany. Even oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has seen the light and announced that he, too, will invest billions in wind energy development.
Unfortunately, Congress has, in recent days, had to deal with a monumental distraction — the literal dismantling of Wall Street. With all but two of the Street's vaunted investment banks sold off or in bankruptcy, the federal government has been faced with having to buy up an estimated $700 billion in bad loans to shore up investor confidence. Here's hoping that, while handling such large matters, our leaders won't neglect a comparatively small matter, renewal of the PTC, which will help ensure that wind energy will be an investment about which we can all feel confident.
In the meantime, we're already putting our capital into a solid investment, COMPOSITESWORLD Expo and Conference 2009, which will return to Schaumburg in September 2009. We confidently expect to see it grow.