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Envision moves in on US market with software deal

UNITED STATES: Chinese turbine manufacturer Envision is embarking on a novel way of entering the US wind market.

Sany is among the Chinese companies that have entered the US market through project development or turbine sales
Sany is among the Chinese companies that have entered the US market through project development or turbine sales

The Beijing-based company has sold its Smart Wind Farm software to Atlantic Power for use in the 300MW Canadian Hills project in Oklahoma.

The deal is a first in the US for Envision and analysts say that selling such a supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) overlay could succeed as a low-risk way of becoming familiar with established players in the American market and of increasing brand awareness.

Justin Wu, the Hong Kong-based lead wind analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said that Envision's approach would allow it to "gain some operational experience in the US in an easier and more cost effective way than installing and operating its own turbines".

Hostile

Chinese turbine makers Goldwind, Sany — and to a lesser degree Sinovel - have all entered the US by developing projects or selling turbines. However, the US government has become increasingly hostile to Chinese imports. It has levied a 71% tax on imports of turbine towers made in China and President Obama has blocked Sany's development of four 10MW projects on national security grounds.

Wu said he did not expect other smaller Chinese turbine makers to adopt Envision's strategy. "Interest in the US market is at a low for Chinese manufacturers," he said. "Other emerging manufacturers might find the business model interesting, but I am not sure they have focussed as much on their service businesses as Envision has."

Cait Pollock, senior adviser and head of renewables research at market adviser Equinox Energy Partners, disagreed with Wu, denying that the Envision deal was in anyway linked to potential turbine sales.

"I would interpret it as more of a reflection of subtle US wind market demand shifts," said Pollock. She cited emerging trends such as growing confidence in China-based manufacturing quality, and greater openness to third-party players in the US operations and maintenance sector.

The Canadian Hills project, which started operating in December, uses 2.4MW Mitsubishi and 2MW Repower turbines. Envision's Scada software will be used on the project to stop, start and reset turbines and control substation equipment, said Tim Hertel, Envision's global director of software services. It will also evaluate performance in terms of key business metrics, such as energy production versus budget, or actual versus predicted wind speed.

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