Southwest Windpower abruptly closed their doors for business on February 20, 2013. The largest manufacturer of small wind turbines in the United States surprised employees, customers, dealers and competitors alike.
Customers report sending in large payments for orders just one week before the closure, and employees at the Flagstaff manufacturing facility reportedly were told to leave quickly, without notice, immediately prior to the closing.
Dealers selling and installing the Skystream 3.7 were also left hanging. Carlos Fernandez, co-founder of Potomac Wind Energy in Dickerson, Maryland describes what other dealers have experienced: no notice, no information, and no access to turbines or replacement parts. He expressed bewilderment over how a top-notch turbine with significant investment from GE could close without even forwarding phone calls to a bankruptcy lawyer.
Without more information, it is impossible to be sure of the reason for the closure. Certainly, the U.S. small wind market has weakened in the last few years. It is a fact that government policies and incentives have been inconsistent, undermining the value of the programs designated to help grow the renewables market. At the same time, many customers for small wind turbines are overseas and these markets are enjoying some solid growth. Some have speculated that, with more customers overseas and manufacturing costs lower in those same countries, manufacturers have difficulty justifying the costs of staying in the U.S.
Phone calls to Mike Sobolik, the chief financial officer, and Michael French, media relations contact, were not returned and email messages bounced back, undelivered.
Southwest Windpower began designing and distributing small wind turbines in 1987 and was recognized as a leader in the small wind industry. They built and shipped more than 170,000 wind turbines to over 120 countries worldwide and, at one point, were sold in more than 88 countries. Besides the manufacturing center in Flagstaff, Arizona, Southwest Windpower has offices in Colorado and Germany. Southwest Windpower systems have been installed in homes, commercial properties, micro grids, remote cabins, telecom transmitters, offshore platforms, water pumping and sailboats.
Southwest Windpower is the manufacturer of the Skystream 3.7, designed specifically for businesses and homes. More than 8000 Skystreams have been installed around the world since its introduction in 2006.
The Small Wind Certification Council certified the Skysteam 3.7 in January 2012. According to Larry Sherwood, executive director of SWCC, “turbine certification is valid so long as the certification renewal conditions listed in the SWCC Small Wind Turbine Certification Policy are met. Certification must be renewed annually. If ownership of the turbine design changes, a new Certification Agreement must be signed by the new owner to maintain the validity of the certification.”
Southwest Windpower had previously discontinued production of their Whisper turbines and sold the AIR lines of wind energy systems to Primus Wind Power of Lakewood, Colorado, as of January, 2013