The wind industry has been a renewable energy star pupil since its widespread adoption but its teenage years are throwing up new and unfamiliar issues.
London, UK -- According to the latest BTM 'World Market Update' report, approximately 23,000 turbines, capable of generating more than 38 GW of wind energy, were installed worldwide in 2009, pushing the global total to a figure in excess of 160 GW — a record year for the industry.
The strength of the sector, it said, came despite the ongoing financial crisis, which continues to shake many of the world's major economies and ravage their industries.
Over the course of the year, Europe lost its title as the largest wind power continent, installing 28.2% of 2009's global capacity, down from a figure of 51% three years previous. The Americas picked up some of the slack coming in with 30% of the year's total, up from 11.3% the previous year. But far in the lead was Asia, which saw a growth rate of 59% on year, and accounted for 41% of global installations during the year.
On the supply side, 2009 was also a strong year for Asia with three Chinese companies making in into the list of the world's top 10 suppliers, which, said the report, resulted in significant losses of market share for some of the more established majors.
Despite a strong appetite for wind in the long term, 2010 to date has proved to be something of a challenge, with demand in Europe falling and manufacturing capacity being cut. Licensing uncertainties and significant time lags between planning and implementation are going some way to fuelling fears of a temporary downturn in wind.
Spanish-headquartered Gamesa designs, manufactures, installs and maintains wind turbines. It has installed more than 19 GW with a further 3 GW in various stages of development in more than 20 countries and four continents.
It manages the entire turbine process from design, manufacture and installation through to and including operation and maintenance. The company also designs and manufactures its own blades, blade roots and moulds for blade and tower manufacture.
The company has manufacturing facilities across Europe, the United States, China and India. Its workforce of more than 6000 staff is capable of manufacturing 4.4 GW of turbines each year.
The firm is currently developing two offshore models, with capacities of 5 MW and of 6-7 MW, in anticipation of further development in the North Sea over the coming years.
In early November the company was ranked global leader in the renewable energy equipment industry, according to a sustainability ranking produced by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.
October saw Gamesa sign supply contracts for 251 MW of turbines to China, a month after it reached strategic agreements to supply 1.31 GW of capacity to the country between 2010 and 2013.
In addition it set a 15% annual growth rate which it hopes will see it achieve 4 GW/year in sales by 2013.
The company plans to base its offshore wind energy business in the UK, backed by an investment of €150 million between 2011 and 2011.
A global headquarters for its offshore division will be established in London.
Germany's E.On is one of the top 10 wind power operators in the world and aspires to rise further up the global rankings. In Europe and the US it has more than 70 onshore wind farms with a combined capacity in excess of 2. 8 GW.
The company says it is committed to further large-scale investments and to expanding its on and offshore installed capacity to about 10 GW by 2015.
E.On operates the 782 MW Roscoe wind farm in Texas, US, the world's largest onshore wind farm. It is also very active in offshore wind energy and is currently developing a portfolio of projects in UK, Scandinavian and German waters.
The company developed the 120 MW Scroby Sands offshore windfarm off the Norfolk coast in England. Its 30 turbines, each rated at 2 MW. E.On's latest offshore windfarm is the 60-turbine Robin Rigg project in Scotland, which is one of the country's largest. Construction began in 2007 and was completed this year.
E.On is also one of the partner companies developing the London Array project along the English coast in cooperation with DONG Energy and Masdar.
When complete the London Array will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world with a capacity of 1 GW. Located more than 20 km from the Kent and Essex coasts in the outer Thames Estuary, one of the three strategic areas the UK government has identified for offshore wind farm development, construction began in July 2009 and the first stage is set to be completed by 2012.
Denmark's Vestas is a long-term player in the wind industry and its roots can be traced back as far as 1898.
In 1987 the company opted to concentrate exclusively on wind energy and by the end of June 2010 it had installed 41,417 turbines giving it an installed capacity of just under 40 GW, the vast majority of which is onshore. Its current offshore installed capacity falls just short of 1 GW, of which the UK accounts for 484 MW from 182 turbines.
Its turbines' ratings range from 850 kW through to its latest 3.0 MW V112 model, which is designed for both on and offshore use. In September a manually produced prototype of the V112 suffered a blade detachment at its test site in Lem, Denmark, causing its shares to slide temporarily. But plans to supply 140 commercially produced V112s to Australia's Macarthur Wind Farm remain firmly in place.
Nonetheless, Vestas has been unable to avoid the effects of the global economic downturn and in late October the company announced that it plans to close a number of its manufacturing units, principally in Denmark.
Along with back office functions, the resulting job losses will total about 3000 people. The decision, said the company, was largely based on weaker-than-expected demand in Europe.
However, despite the staffing cull, Vestas at the same time reiterated its expectations for 2010. But the company has sliced planned investment which will now not exceed €900 million.
For next year the company expects firm and unconditional orders of 7—8 GW.
Activity in terms of produced and shipped megawatts is expected to come in at 6 GW during the year, generating a positive free cash flow of €650 million, said the company.
Over the course of the year Vestas has taken receipt of its largest order to date from Portugal's EDPR for 1.5 GW and up to 2.1 GW.
The agreement covers supply, installation and commissioning of wind turbines for delivery to North America, South America and Europe in 2011 and 2012, with the possibility of a 600 MW extension through to 2011.
The company say it is also continuing to work on its plans for development of a 6 MW offshore turbine.
Spain's Iberdola Renovables already claims to be the top wind energy company in the world in terms of installed capacity, output and project portfolio. And, in addition, the company's plans to invest €9 billion over the 2010—2012 period to bolster its position.
Growth in the period to 2012 is expected to come mainly from the United States, where it will plan to invest €4.9 billion, 55% of its total capex budget. In the UK, meanwhile, the firm plans to invest 21% of its budget, or €1.9 billion, while in its home market of Spain it plans to invest 11%, or €1 billion. The rest of the world will receive 13% of the capex budget, or €1.2 billion.
The goal, says the company, is to accumulate more than 16 GW of installed capacity by 2012. Iberdrola also expects its operating earnings to rise by 15%—20% a year in the period.
Iberdrola Renovables is a member of the group of companies headed by its sole shareholder Iberdrola SA, which owns 80% of the capital. Iberdrola Renovables, in turn, is the parent for a group of companies in Spain and elsewhere.
Iberdrola Renovables operates in more than 20 countries including Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the United States.
In the UK the parent company owns one of the country's major utility groups, Scottish Power, and by extension ScottishPower Renewables which operates Europe's largest onshore windfarm, the 322 MW Whitelees windfarm in Scotland.
Siemens Wind Power started life as Danregn Vindkraft in 1980, before being renamed Bonus Energy in 1983.
In December 2004 it was acquired by Siemens and remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of the German engineering giant.
The company has developed a wide range of on and offshore wind turbines with current machines offering power ratings in the 2.3—3.6 MW range and with some 8735 turbines installed.
Siemens in 2009 had a 5.9% share of the 38 GW global wind energy market, according to the most recent BTM report.
In recent months the company has announced that it is on track to build a new wind turbine factory in the UK that should be operational by 2014 and create 700 jobs.
In October Siemens said it plans to produce a new 6 MW direct-drive offshore wind turbine at the facility.
At present more than 40% of UK-generated wind power is derived from Siemens machinery and technology.
Siemens turbines account for 77% of the UK's installed and under development offshore wind farms.
The company says it has also played a key role in the development of the UK's first modern apprenticeship scheme for the renewable energy sector.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme in Glasgow in early November, Christopher Ehlers, head of Siemens Wind Power UK, said: 'As the leading supplier of offshore and onshore wind turbines, grid connections and service and maintenance in the UK, our support of the apprenticeship scheme is critical.'
Notable projects using Siemens turbines include the Windy Flats and Tuolumne wind farms in the United States with a total capacity of 358 MW, Wolfe Island in Canada with 197.8 MW installed, Whitelee in Scotland, UK, with 322 MW installed, Smola in Norway with 150.4 MW, West Wind in New Zealand with a capacity of 142.6 MW and Xinjiang in China — Asia's first wind farm, which was developed in 1989 with a total rated capacity of 2 MW.
GE has installed more than 13,500 wind turbines worldwide and has manufacturing and assembly facilities in Germany, Norway, China, Canada and the United States. The company's current product portfolio includes turbines with rated capacities from 1.5 MW to 4 MW.
In May GE and US-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation announced a long-term partnership covering the development of the first fresh-water offshore wind farm in the US and a broad range of other initiatives. Under the partnership, GE is set to provide direct-drive wind turbines to LEEDCo's 20 MW offshore wind project in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie.
GE also plans to install up to five offshore demonstration turbines through two separate partnerships, with both set to use the company's largest wind turbine — a 4 MW-rated machine.
The company recently said it will invest €340 million to develop and expand its European wind turbine manufacturing, engineering and service facilities in the UK, Norway, Sweden and Germany.
US-based NextEra, formerly FPL, provides more than 25% of the total wind energy generation energy in the United States. The company entered the wind generation sector in 1989 with the acquisition of several existing wind projects in Southern California and built its first wind farm in Oregon in 1998. The next 10 years, said the company, were marked by significant growth and the acquisition of two wind projects in Canada.
NextEra is the largest generator of wind-powered electricity in North America, with 76 facilities across 17 US states and Canada. It operates about 9000 turbines which collectively have a nameplate generating capacity of some 7500 MW.
In 2009 the company invested about $11 billion in its wind interests. It also operates solar and nuclear sites and reported 2009 revenues of more than $15 billion from nearly 43 GW of generating capacity. It employs more than 15,000 people across 28 US states and Canada.
China-based Sinovel Wind Group is an independent designer, developer and manufacturer of large-scale on and offshore series wind turbines.
By 2008, only three years after the company was founded, Sinovel Wind Group had installed 1.4 GW of wind turbines, ranking it first in China and seventh in the world. In 2009, it installed a further 3.51 GW of turbines, holding its position as China's leading producer, and propelling it into third place in the global rankings. In 2009 it launched a 5 MW offshore wind turbine.
The Beijing-headquartered company also regards itself as a leading innovator in China's wind power equipment manufacturing. The company provided all 34 of the 3 MW-rated wind turbines for the new Shanghai Donghai Bridge offshore wind farm.
India's Suzlon, launched in 1995 with a staff of just 20, has evolved into a leading wind power company with 16,000 employees in 25 countries and with operations across the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.
The company has a fully integrated supply chain with manufacturing facilities in three continents as well as R&D facilities in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, India and the Netherlands.
Suzlon's global market share last year, combined with that of its 2009-acquired German wind turbine manufacturer REpower, rose to 9.8%, making the group the third largest wind turbine manufacturing company in the world.
The company has over 40 sites across eight states in India, and had installed in excess of 5 GW by September.
With a global project portfolio across Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America, Suzlon recently announced plans to set up a new office in South Africa, where the country's wind energy association believes could derive 25% of its energy from wind by 2025. The firm is in the tendering process for more than 800 MW in South Africa, where wind potential is estimated at about 184 TWh.
In late October Suzlon reported a group order book worth $5.4 billion and Q2 revenues of $847 million.
RWE has operated onshore wind farms for more than 10 years in Europe. In Spain and the UK, the company says it has built a solid foundation for its growing business with its existing wind farms. In Germany and the Netherlands, RWE Innogy significantly increased its capacity when it acquired the wind farms of Dutch energy supplier Essent. It currently has some 2.2 GW of installed capacity and 1.1 GW under construction.
RWE's existing wind farms include those in North Hoyle and Rhyl Flats, at 60 MW and 90 MW respectively, off the UK's Welsh coast. Nearby, the company is also planning a 576 MW offshore farm at Gwynt y Mor.
Off the English coast RWE is involved with the 504 MW Greater Gabbard project. The firm has secured development licences for two other UK offshore projects, the 1.5 GW Atlantic Array in the Bristol Channel and the massive Dogger Bank scheme off Yorkshire, which is expected to have an installed capacity of 9 GW. Off the German coast the company is building the 295 MW Nordsee Ost, for which the European Union is providing some €50 millon of funding.
Germany's Nordex was launched in 1985 and in 1995 introduced the first megawatt system in the world, the N54. Today more than 4000 Nordex wind turbines with a total rated output of more than 5720 MW are operating in 34 countries.
Represented with offices and subsidiaries in 18 countries, in the third quarter of 2010, business fell short of the company's expectations, chiefly due to weak market conditions. Thus, Nordex has launched a cost-cutting programme as well as an initiative to boost the efficiency of its turbines. Furthermore, and contrary to previous forecasts, it no longer expects a small increase in sales for 2010.
In October Nordex USA announced the official opening of its flagship wind turbine manufacturing plant in the US, representing a $40 million investment, which will manufacture nacelles for its 2.5 MW Gamma series machines.
The latest order announced by the firm was obtained by its Turkish subsidiary and is for the supply of 18 machines for the 'Susurluk' wind farm. The farm is owned by Iltek Iletisim, the energy subsidiary of the Eksim Group. Nordex also announced an order for the turnkey installation of a the 'Akres' project in Turkey, with 18 N90/2500 machines. This development is for Karesi Enerji, a subsidiary of the Turkish transformer manufacturer Best.
David Beattie is associate editor of Renewable Energy World magazine