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Market access and skilled labour challenges Nova Scotia wind farm parts maker


October 18, 2011
By Keith Doucette The Canadian Press

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A fledgling Nova Scotia wind farm parts manufacturer says it’s experiencing growing pains as it competes to establish itself in the wind energy market.

Brad Murray, a spokesman for DSTN, told a legislature committee that the Trenton plant is continuing to face challenges gaining access to certain markets and in finding enough skilled labour four months after its official startup.

Murray said the plant is all but shut out of the Quebec market, where rules stipulate 60 percent local content for wind energy projects.

He said the Ontario market is also a growing concern because local content rules are set to increase to 50 percent from 25 in the new year.

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Murray told the committee that protectionism could hurt the competitiveness of the industry inside those provinces, as well as outside. He said plant officials have lobbied federal bureaucrats about the problem.

“I told them that one of the things that is kind of shooting us in the foot is the opportunity in other parts of Canada,” he said.

As a result, DSTN is focused on markets in Atlantic Canada and New England in the short term.

Company officials also told the committee they were continuing to recruit qualified welders, but were struggling to compete against salaries paid by oil projects in Western Canada.

Murray said the specific problem centres around the type of specialized arc welding required to make the circular tower units. It’s proven to be a challenge, even for some of the welders currently employed at the plant.

“We’ve had a lot of repairs that we’ve had to do and are still doing,” he said. “The repairs are getting done, but that has just slowed the process.”

Despite the startup woes, officials said the plant is slowly ramping up capacity and is currently working on 15 towers for a wind farm project in Amherst, N.S.

It has also begun shipping five towers to a project in Prince Edward Island.

The company told the committee it currently employs 164 people and plans to hire an additional six workers when it begins manufacturing wind tower blades in February. At full production, the plant expects to employ as many as 400 workers.