We looked at figures from Make Consulting, BTM Navigant and Windpower Monthly's data division Windpower Intelligence, to pull together this list of ten leading wind turbine manufacturers. We looked for the big-selling brands of last year, but also considered technological innovation and the companies' track records outside their domestic markets. This knocked out Chinese makers Envision and XEMC, both of which made Make's top ten in 2014, in favour of offshore pioneer Senvion, newly released from Suzlon, and low-wind specialist Nordex, both in previous top ten lists.
Collective, these ten companies have around 270GW of wind power installed, roughly three-quarters of the global total, and last year added around 35GW. Their turbines range from 20-plus-year-old kilowatt machines to brand new multi-megawatt designs. Some, like Vestas and Enercon, are wind pure-players, but it is worth noting the extent to which their revenues increasingly depend on after-sales services. Others - Siemens and GE are the obvious examples - count wind turbines as only part of their energy-generation interests. And while some are right at the forefront of the technology, pushing the envelope in low winds, high altitudes, cold climates and deep offshore, others have concentrated on low cost and convenience through well-proven designs and economies of scale.
Turning out high-quality turbines in large numbers for onshore and offshore markets right around the globe has not been a problem for Siemens' wind and renewables division. Turning a profit has been proving rather harder of late.
Make Consulting rated Siemens as the world's leading turbine supplier in 2014, its 10.8% share of the market equating to 5.63GW in turbine installations. But the division reported a loss of $15 billion for the financial year ending in October 2014, followed by an €80 million and then a €44 million loss in the next two quarters.
Hefty bills for the inspection and replacement of main bearings and rotor blades in a number of models, including its 3.6MW offshore turbine, together with delays and cost overruns in the installation and connection of substations in the North Sea, have been the main causes of the disappointing financial figures. The cost of taking the new 6-7MW offshore turbine platform into production has also had an impact.
Siemens has dominated the offshore sector in recent years, largely due to the popularity of its 3.6MW machine, more than 1,000 of which are operating in UK waters alone. But the big new turbine is needed to combat a growing pool of multi-megawatt competitors, notably the MHI-Vestas V164-8MW. The first project to use the Siemens SWT-6.0-154 direct-drive turbine (pictured, above), Dong Energy's 210MW Westermost Rough off the UK's east coast, started delivering its full power in May. Others, including Germany's Gode Wind 1 and 2 projects, are under construction. The turbine itself has already been subjected to an upgrade, with a 7MW prototype now being tested at an onshore site in Denmark. Serial production of this is expected to start in 2017.
The 3.6MW offshore turbine, now upgraded to 4MW, still looks to have plenty of useful life in it, however. As well as in Germany, it is now also being manufactured in China in a joint venture between Siemens and Shanghai Electric, and will power the 152MW offshore project under construction at Rudong in China's Jiangsu province. It has also been specified for an offshore test site under development in Taiwan.
The onshore order book is looking increasingly healthy, too. Recent highlights include signing a framework agreement with the Egyptian government for up to 2GW, a 300MW order from Apex Clean Energy in the US, and a 360MW deal with Mainstream Renewable Energy in South Africa.
Current focus Catching up in low-wind onshore markets
Key concern Slow growth in offshore sector
Having slipped down the rankings to fifth place in terms of market share in 2013, the US manufacturer climbed back into the top three last year on the back of the construction revival in the US. But the days of GE being able to rely on its home market for steady growth have long gone, and the company has focused on product launches that will help to deflect the next expected US downturn, in 2017.
The biggest change on the horizon for GE's wind division, headed by Anne McEntee, is the corporate bid to merge its energy division with that of French transport and electricity conglomerate Alstom. This will give GE a firm foothold in Europe, and a major leap forward in offshore development with the French company's Haliade 6MW model. But the $13.5 billion deal, which involves much more than just wind assets, has yet to clear global anti-trust legislation. Until then, GE turbines are limited to two platform ranges, the 1-2MW, and the 3MWs.
New products have been less about new models, and more about operational advances using technology, specifically the industrial internet - a phrase coined by GE to describe the ability of machines to talk to each other through sensors and the internet. This technology drive comes from the very top of the company, echoing CEO Jeff Immelt's statement last year that the corporate structure was being reshaped to use data analytics and engineering to create products that help its customers increase productivity.
One of the few hardware launches in the wind division, the modularly constructed spaceframe tower cuts costs by using less steel, and makes transportation easier and cheaper to help development of remote sites with difficult access.
The most recent data launch was the Digital Wind Farm announced at the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference in May, which brings the manufacturer in at the start of wind farm development, using a digital program to plan the layout of the site, visualised with holograms. Once installed, the Digital Wind Farm promises to deliver data in real time, allowing adjustments to be made to ensure optimum energy capture, operating the turbines as a group, balancing power output and machine wear to provide the best delivery. Last year's digital launch, the Powerup, is an aftermarket program that analyses performance and offers options on how to improve the design of the original product.
This year GE installed in Turkey its first "Brilliant" 3.2MW turbine, which uses constant and detailed data to modify production and smooth power delivery. GE is also committing to growth in Brazil, with its plans to build more operations and maintenance facilities to better serve the 900-plus turbines in operation or being installed in that country.
Current focus Emerging markets, data products
Key concern Hold-up of Alstom deal and EC objection on anti-trust grounds
The turn of the decade proved a difficult time for the Danish manufacturer. It missed its 2011 revenue target by 16%; issued consecutive profit target warnings; suffered from a series of lawsuits; saw board changes aplenty - including the departure of two offshore chiefs within a month of each other in 2012; and lost the top manufacturer spot.
But since CEO Anders Runevad took the reins in September 2013, the company has had a turnaround in fortunes. In its 2014 financial report, Vestas recorded a 13.5% increase in revenues, earning it a €392 million profit, compared with a €82 million loss a year earlier. The board even recommended a €0.52/share dividend, the first time in more than a decade.
Vestas has a global footprint of 53,743 turbines installed in 73 countries, totalling 66GW, according to its latest annual report. BTM Navigant rated it the top OEM in 2014 with a global market share of 12.3%. Make, which counts only grid-connected turbines, placed it third on 10.1% behind Siemens and GE.
In 2014, Vestas delivered 6.25GW of turbines, a 28.5% increase on 2013, despite its offshore business merging with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to form a separate company, MHI-Vestas.
In May, the company claimed its biggest-ever order backlog for turbines and services, worth €15 billion. The services business is a core focus for the company, which it aims to grow by 30%, aided by the appointment last year of a new services chief, Christian Venderby (pictured).
Earlier this year, Vestas unveiled a new power-mode option for its 3MW platform, which can boost the 3.3MW turbines up to 3.45MW under the right site conditions, as the company looks for small gains as opposed to disruptive technology.
Its flagship model, the V164-8MW, now incorporated into the MHI-Vestas joint venture, has proved popular in the UK's offshore sector. It won the contract for Dong Energy's 256MW Burbo Bank Extension, and has been named as the preferred turbine for Dong's Walney Extension phase one, and Eneco and EDF's 970MW Navitus Bay.
Current focus Growing the after-sales service business
Key concern Stagnant and declining major markets
Goldwind has emerged relatively recently as China's leading turbine manufacturer, supplanting the troubled Sinovel at the top of the domestic charts. According to Make Consulting, it is now ranked fourth in the world, behind Siemens, Vestas and GE, having taken a 9.2% share of the global wind turbine market in 2014, installing just over 4.8GW.
Nearly all that capacity (4.43GW) was reserved for the home market, where Goldwind finished 2014 with a 19% share, well clear of its nearest competitor, United Power on 11.14%. The good news applies to the balance sheet as well as the order book, with profits rising from CNY 427 million ($68.3 million) in 2013 to CNY 1.83 billion ($293 million) in 2014.
Goldwind's success has been built largely on the back of its range of 1.5MW permanent-magnet generator direct-drive turbines, developed from a Vensys design introduced in 2004. (Goldwind is Vensys' main licensee and shareholder.) Of the 17,600 Goldwind turbines operating around the world at the end of last year, 12,300 were 1.5MW machines. This range has proved particularly adaptable to operation at high altitudes and in cold climates. In 2011 two were installed on Xities mountain in north-west China, 3,300 metres above sea level. Since then it has been specified for two high-altitude projects totalling 104MW in Ecuador.
Goldwind has been more active than other Chinese manufacturers in looking for business outside the domestic market. In 2014 it won contracts in Romania and Panama, signed a joint venture in South Korea, and its US subsidiary has started selling 2.5MW turbines (also derived from Vensys) for low-wind sites in North and South America. This year it has announced deals in South Africa and Pakistan.
The company has a 6MW offshore prototype under test, but the project is running at least two years behind schedule. There are no indications yet when it might progress to serial production.
Current focus Building export sales, high-altitude turbines
Key concern Over dependence on home market
Enercon has long been perceived as an outsider among major wind-turbine manufacturers. The German company takes pride in going its own way. It resisted the chance to go into offshore, the US or China, reaping the benefits during downturns in both markets — which forced Vestas and Gamesa, among others, to cut capacity.
As a result, Enercon has shown solid growth over the past few years. Last year it installed just over 4GW.
But there are weaknesses, at least some stemming from the company putting all its eggs in one basket. The firm looks over-dependent on the German market, where it took 52% of its orders last year. Although mature western European markets are still dependable, exports were down in 2014.
One wonders what will happen if there is any downturn for Enercon due to regulatory changes in Germany. We are likely to find out soon.
Earlier this year, Enercon predicted a strong onshore market in 2015-16. But it is also factoring-in the planned introduction of an auction procedure, putting a damper on expansion. It forecasts total German onshore wind installations of 4.2GW this year after a record 4.75GW in 2014. "The dip will come in 2017 due to the auction process, but our aim is to avoid being affected by it," said managing director, Hans-Dieter Kettwig.
By the end of 2014, Enercon had installed a total of 16,867MW in Germany and 20,284MW in export markets. For the coming years, the group's aim is for an export share of its total deliveries of 50-70%. For a company that prefers western Europe, it is hard to work out where it is going to find this extra capacity. In parallel, it aims to achieve a market share of 45% or more in its home market. Enercon accounted for around 43% of the 4,750MW installed onshore in Germany in 2014, compared with 50% of the 2,998MW of onshore capacity installed in Germany in 2013.
Despite the 7MW-plus E-126, Enercon's technology remit is largely embedded in the low-to-medium wind market. It's best selling model last year was the E82, followed by the E101 and E70 models.
A 4.5MW turbine is on the horizon, which is an interesting prospect seeing as the rest of the industry is developing around the 3MW range.
Current focus Developing new long-life 4.5MW platform
Key concern Limited room for growth in home market
With Gamesa's domestic market ground to a halt by government reforms, the Spanish manufacturer has had to look elsewhere for growth. On top of strong sales in the rest of Europe and in North America, it can boast a high market share in developing regions such as India and Latin America, as well as becoming one of the few European OEMs with a foothold in China.
In 2014, the company sold 2.6GW globally, giving it a 4.2% market share, and position as seventh largest OEM, according to Make Consulting figures. Annual sales by megawatt increased 34% compared with the previous year, buoyed largely by a 15% increase in India. The country accounted for 26% of Gamesa's 2014 sales. Latin America contributed more than a third of last year's total, with China at 9%.
Gamesa's strong performance appears to have carried over into 2015. The company's Q1 figures saw pre-tax earnings of €66 million - 92% up year on year - as sales increased 43%. Worldwide, Gamesa now has over 30GW installed and is aiming to become the largest manufacturer in India and Mexico.
Following a well-trodden path, a greater focus has been placed on the servicing business. Last year, operations and maintenance contributed 15% to the company's sales total, up by a fifth on the previous year.
Gamesa's 2MW low-wind G97 turbine has been the driving force in its portfolio. It was the manufacturer's most sold turbine in 2014, gaining orders in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The company also has a 5MW onshore turbine with two rotor sizes, a 128-metre and a 132-metre diameter still in testing.
The original offshore version of the 5MW platform has been incorporated into Adwen, a joint venture with Areva launched earlier this year. Adwen is also developing an 8MW turbine, set to be used at the 500MW St Brieuc project off the French coast.
Current focus India, Mexico, turbine servicing
Key concern Developing joint venture 8MW offshore
If the wind industry were one big wind turbine, United Power would be the alternator. We all know it is there but nobody is particularly interested in it.
Yet in top 10 terms, United has been ever-present for the past five years. And there is a good reason why. The company is part of China Guodian, one of China's five biggest power producers, and owner of Longyuan, one of the world's biggest developers. It also has the benefit of being state-owned.
Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the company's contracts have been in China, where it has won a mass of deals around the 50MW mark. At this size, they avoid government regulations that require approval from Beijing for anything larger. Guodian has a number of subsidiaries engaged in renewable power development. By the end of 2014 its installed wind capacity totalled around 20GW, with about 15.7GW credited to Longyuan.
Statistics released by the China Wind Energy Association show United Power supplied 2.6GW of wind turbines to domestic developers in 2014, representing a market share of 11.14%. However, over the past year, United has been making moves outside its national boundaries. An engineering management firm set up by Longyuan in South Africa is in charge of a 100MW and a 140MW project as a general EPC contractor. The projects will use 1.5MW turbines provided by United.
The bulk of the company's turbines are in the 1.5-2MW range. A 6MW offshore prototype has been installed, but company insiders say it barely functions. A 10MW turbine is also supposed to be in the works.
Current focus Emerging markets, especially South Africa
Key concern Ageing product range
Unlike the other Chinese manufacturers in this report, Ming Yang does not benefit from being state owned. A relative newcomer to top-ten status - not surprising as it was only established in 2007 — it took 4% of the global market in 2014 according to Make Consulting, or a little over 2GW.
Like Goldwind's relationship with Vensys, however, Ming Yang is heavily dependent on European technology and expertise, working closely with German design consultancy Aerodyn. Its 1.5-2MW range of onshore turbines, which has accounted for practically all its sales to date, was designed by the Aerodyn team.
Price has played its part in the success of this model. A Windpower Monthly investigation in February last year found the price quoted by Ming Yang for its 1.5MW turbine was calculated to be less than €400,000/MW, while the average price of a Vestas turbine was equivalent to €968,000/MW.
Ming Yang has taken a more radical approach to its offshore offerings, concentrating on Aerodyn's super compact drive (SCD) technology in a novel two-blade downwind design. Available in power ratings from 2-3MW, a small number have been specified for various pilot and testing offshore programmes in China.
More hopes are pinned on the 6MW model now under test. After some delay, the first prototype was installed last September and began commercial trial operation in March. Featuring a rotor diameter of 140 metres and a helicopter landing pad integrated with the nacelle, the two-blade downwind machine is designed to operate in the typhoon-prone coastal stretch between Shanghai and Hong Kong. The region has huge potential for offshore development, provided the turbines have found the answer to withstanding the typhoons.
Current focus Developing radical 6MW offshore turbine
Key concern Slow growth in China's offshore plans
After seven years under the wing of India's Suzlon, German turbine manufacturer Senvion, formerly Repower, is now carving out its future with a new owner, US private investment firm Centerbridge Partners. The EUR1 billion deal - a price that reflected Suzlon's urgent need to reduce debt rather than Senvion's true worth - was agreed last January and completed in April. Andreas Nauen, a former Siemens executive appointed to head the company in 2010, remains as CEO.
Senvion employs around 3,500 people in 14 countries, has a little over 12GW in operation worldwide and celebrated the installation of its 6,000th turbine earlier this year. Its main market, however, is Germany, where in 2014 it accounted for 14.8% of onshore installations, placing it third behind Enercon and Vestas, and ahead of Nordex, according to consultancy Deutsche WindGuard.
The company was one of the first to pitch into the offshore sector in a serious manner, launching its 5MW turbine in 2004. That machine has since been developed into a 6.15MW unit and is now being tested with a 152-metre rotor diameter in place of the original's 126-metre design. It has been selected for a number of sizeable offshore projects, including phases two and three of Belgium's 325MW Thornton Bank, and Germany's 332MW Nordsee 1 and 295MW Nordsee Ost, all of which were developed by RWE Innogy. But the introduction of 7MW and 8MW turbines from Siemens and MHI-Vestas respectively means that competition in this sector is only going to get tougher.
Onshore wind is catered for by the MM series of 2MW turbines with rotor diameters ranging from 82 to 100 metres, and the 3.XM series of 3-3.4MW machines with rotor diameters of 104 to 122 metres.
"Our objective is to continue growing profitably and to gain additional market share in our top five markets in Germany, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and France," said Nauen at the announcement of Centerbridge's acquisition. But onshore wind in the UK is grinding to a halt, it already has in Australia, and is expected to slow right down in Canada after 2016, while Germany and France are both highly competitive markets. If Senvion is to flourish under its new owners it will need to look beyond its established markets.
Current focus Staying competitive in offshore market
Key concern Little growth in its favoured markets
Nordex's fortunes have continued to improve following the decision in 2012 by newly appointed CEO Jurgen Zeschky to abandon its proposed offshore model, the 6MW N150, and stick exclusively to onshore turbines. The company turned its attention to the low-wind sector, launching models with tall towers and long, slender blades, and gaining itself a headstart over competitors in a number of new markets.
According to Make Consulting and BTM Navigant, Nordex slipped out of the top ten in 2014, although it installed 1,489MW of new capacity, 19% more than in 2013. Its best-selling turbine was the low-wind N117/2400, which accounted for 42% of its total sales last year.
While southern Germany, particularly Bavaria with its forested regions and limited turbine installations, was seen as ripe for low-wind development, Nordex has secured sales right across the country, installing 412MW in 2014 and making its home country its largest single market. For growth, the best regions have been the Americas and Asia, which accounted for 21% of new capacity, a huge jump from the 6% of new growth in 2013. Other export markets look healthy, too, with Nordex holding orders for more than 300MW from Sweden, Finland, Turkey and South Africa, and nearly as much in the US and China.
Nordex's product-servicing sector grew by 15% last year, helping the company boost its profits. And with an eye to Latin America and South Africa, it has provided support during the construction phase to give assurance to investors in new markets. The blade-making facilities in Rostock in northern Germany are now being expanded to cope with growing demand, focusing specifically on the low-wind designs.
Having set the company on a path to success through low-wind growth while avoiding hefty offshore costs, Zeschky stepped down in May. His replacement, former chief customer officer Lars Krogsgaard, is unlikely to veer far from this successful course.
Current focus Americas and Asia, long blades, servicing
Key concern Change in leadership