Valmont brand of green jobs links wind farms to population centers

There is much to recommend in our cover story subject, a sprawling spun cast prestressed pole plant (pages 22–26), the people who run it, and the NYSE-traded company behind it. Located on a 150-acre site, Valmont Newmark/Bellville is running new batching, mix delivery, placing and forming equipment to support one of the more promising product categories in prestressed concrete.

To the best of our knowledge, Valmont Newmark expanded the plant with few, if any, federal government incentives, yet its investment in larger utility pole capacity has as much to do with green jobs as a warehouse full of solar panels. Bellville output will help utilities build transmission infrastructure pivotal to bringing power from west Texas wind farms to Dallas-Fort Worth and other population points east.

That infrastructure includes 140-ft. spun cast poles equal to carrying efficient 345-kV power lines. Valmont Newmark has applied considerable expertise in spun cast pole production and power transmission structures to a new generation of poles—20 ft. taller than prior maximum-height offerings. The single-piece, 140-ft. structures exploit strength, ductility and durability characteristics unique to prestressed concrete. They offer an alternative to steel pole or lattice structures, which in many conditions require greater foundation work than concrete poles.

We first visited Valmont Newmark in October 2004 (“Ahead in the Poles”) after the company opened a Barstow, Calif., spun cast plant, aiming to replicate on the West Coast a market it developed in the southeast and south central states. Valmont Industries had recently acquired Newmark International, its concrete production assets helping create a one-stop shop for small to large utility structures, concrete or steel.

The California greenfield, plus investment and concrete, steel or hybrid product development throughout power transmission structure plants, caught the eye of Palo Alto, Calif., global growth consultant Frost & Sullivan. It noted how a utility’s service area can entail construction and maintenance of transmission or distribution lines that a) cross mountains or rivers, or span urban settings; and, b) are exposed to severe weather events and temperature extremes. “By offering a wide range of overhead line structures, Valmont Newmark can meet varied customer requirements with great precision and efficiency,” the firm observed.

In August 2006, presenting Valmont Newmark with the 2005 Award for Product Line Strategy, Frost & Sullivan cited the producer’s “significant success in a highly capital-intensive, mature market, where manufacturers need to display excellent entrepreneurial acumen to arrive at the right combination of offerings.”

Facing pressure to cost effectively improve grid reliability and maximize operating efficiencies, explained Frost & Sullivan’s Roberto Torres, “Utilities are considering a diverse range of options for tower and pole needs. They have also begun to analyze total life-cycle costs as well as aesthetic and environmental factors. By adding concrete poles, Valmont Newmark [can] provide structures in the two fastest-growing segments in the overhead transmission and distribution structure market.” The decision to broaden its utility structure product line enables Valmont Newmark to expand pole market share, he added, and position for future growth in the evolving electrical transmission industry.

Valmont Newmark is pacing the evolution in power transmission—indeed, the green energy era itself—on the strength of a concrete value proposition. A visit to its expanded Bellville plant brings continuing validation of Frost & Sullivan’s Product Line Strategy award, and an even better example of spun cast prestressed pole production than what we presented seven years ago this month.