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Matching finance and technology skills

We went to press this month with the news that Vestas, at long last, may be on the road to recovery.

The Q2 figures were disappointing and well below target, but the company's earnings before interest and tax remained in the black, the order book looks healthy and share prices improved with the news of changes in the boardroom.

Bert Nordberg, appointed as chairman a year ago during the chaos of financial failings, severe job cuts and boardroom reorganisations, set about restructuring the firm for a more successful future. The Danish manufacturer, which was at the centre of turbine-engineering advances in the early days of the wind industry and remained a key player as the market grew, had lost its way, suffering record losses in 2012. Sacked CEO Ditlev Engel said at the time of Nordberg's appointment that he was determined to see through the board's new cost-reduction strategy. If Nordberg, with his new chief financial officer and brand new CEO in place, can maintain and grow the small upward trajectory of the company's figures, Engel may just have achieved what he planned to do before being shown the door.

So to the future, and to what is needed now, not just for Vestas, but for the wider wind industry. Technology advances are what make the wind industry go round, say many, and big businesses are minded to pay attention to this. Engel had been criticised by some for being much more interested in wheeler-dealer finance than nitty-gritty technology. That his replacement, Anders Runevad, has an engineering background may work in his favour, although, of course, he is new to the wind industry. At Siemens and Repower, changing management teams are bringing various expertises. The Repower board now includes a former Vestas senior vice-president for engineering and a former Nordex chief operating officer. Between them, they offer engineering and business degrees, and experience in the wind and auto industries. Markus Tacke, new CEO of wind at Siemens, has no background in wind energy but comes from the oil and gas division of Siemens and has experience in small industrial steam turbines. He too has an engineering degree.

Wind farm developers and owners will provide their verdicts on the boardroom and management changes through their purchase choices. New technologies will attract attention, but a reliable track record scores very highly. Our feature on the latest technology advances (page 43) show a wealth of product variations to suit different locations and different wind speeds. Improvements in yield and reliability take centre stage, with many manufacturers building on their current models and expanding the ranges.

Grid dilemmas

While monitoring product developments, the industry needs to stay on the case of grids. The sector has long been given a rough ride with network upgrades, often being blamed for the costly work required. Many of the world's electricity networks are in need of refurbishment, regardless of what power source runs through. But it is the growth of wind power that is being halted by a lack of investment (page 31). Just last month, Norway's energy minister said his country is re-evaluating the cost benefit of an offshore interconnection with the UK and Germany. Lobbying both politicians and the public about the needs and ultimate benefits must continue.

Jacki Buist is editor of Windpower Monthly

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