Windpower Monthly looks at their product ranges, corporate strategies, balance sheets and order books to see how they qualified for top ten status.
Rated by the amount of new capacity installed, China's wind-turbine manufacturers were clearly the dominant force in 2105. Goldwind pushed above Vestas, GE and Siemens to take the top spot, the first time any Chinese maker had done so.
Four other Chinese OEMs made it into the top ten, according to figures from FTI Intelligence (see graph below). But none of these companies made much of an impact outside their huge domestic market, which accounted for nearly half of last year's 60GW-plus of new wind-energy capacity.
Navigant Research looked beyond the figures to compile its latest ranking of the world's leading turbine makers, rating them according to 12 criteria.
These were: vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; production strategy; technology; geographic reach; sales and marketing; global market share and 2015 capacity; product quality and reliability; product portfolio, cumulative installations; and staying power.
Assessed on these criteria, the Chinese manufacturers did not do so well. Only Goldwind and Envision made it into the top ten — in eighth and tenth places respectively. Topping the table were the usual suspects: Vestas, GE and Siemens.
The Nordex-Acciona merger meant one fewer independent manufacturer to consider this year. Assuming the Siemens-Gamesa deal goes through as planned, there will be one fewer again next year, as Europe's turbine makers continue to join forces.
Top OEMs as rated by FTI Intelligence
Project Babylon… Vestas' four-rotor concept turbine is undergoing 12 months' testing
In July 2012, shares in Vestas were trading at below €4.00. On 18 August this year, following the company's announcement of "better than expected" half-year financial figures, they were changing hands at over €70, their highest value for more than eight years. This was further solid evidence that the Danish wind-turbine OEM has put its darkest days well behind it.
According to FTI Intelligence, Vestas took 11.8% of the global market for new installed wind capacity in 2015, equating to 7.43GW. Vestas claims that by the end of June 2016 it had a global footprint of 77GW from 57,611 turbines across 75 countries.
Selling wind-energy hardware remains Vestas' core concern, but the company's service business has been the real focus of growth recently.
The acquisition of US independent service provider (ISP) UpWind Solutions last December was quickly followed by the purchase of German ISP Availon in January.
The first fruits of those buy-outs were revealed in May, when Vestas announced it had won a service agreement with Berkshire Hathaway to maintain 1.75GW of GE turbines in the US. Vestas is not the only OEM to service other manufacturers' turbines, but it is now a clear leader in the field.
The already healthy turbine order book took a sharp upturn in June when Vestas secured a deal to supply up to 1,000 2MW turbines for MidAmerican's Wind XI cluster in Iowa.
The contract, estimated to be worth $2.2 billion, is Vestas' first with the Iowa-based utility, which until then had specified either GE or Siemens hardware.
Vestas' five-year full-wrap service package, which can be extended to ten years, is widely believed to have played a large part in MidAmerican's decision to go with Vestas.
On the product front, Vestas has focused on extending its 3MW platform. Now with a nameplate capacity of 3.45MW, there are variants for high-, mediumand low-wind sites with rotor diameters of 105-136 metres.
The low-wind V136 and medium-wind V126 models can both be specified with Vestas' modular large-diameter steel tower (LDST) for hub heights of close to 140 metres.
The firm's most eye-catching announcement of 2016 was the unveiling in April of a radical four-rotor concept, using four 225kW turbines attached to a central tower. The concept is now being tested at Roskilde in Denmark.
The MHI Vestas offshore joint venture has made big strides too. The first V164 8MW model was installed at Dong Energy's Burbo Bank Extension off the UK's west coast in September.
Current focus: Winning sales with full-service deals
Chief concern: Slowdown of established European markets
Haliade coup… GE's acquisition of Alstom's power business has made it an offshore player
A top-three player, GE's challenge is to remain dominant in its domestic market while ramping up global sales to offset the expected downturn in the US once the production tax credit (PTC) has been phased out by the end of 2021.
Until then, the US will experience a PTC bubble, and GE is well positioned to reap the rewards with its current turbine portfolio and the digital wind farm, allowing clients to mix and match different turbines in one project and optimise performance for the entire project once it is operating.
GE moved early into the platform approach, with the release of a workhorse platform followed by rapid-fire product-release cycles geared towards distinct markets, such as Germany or Turkey.
The company has now successfully merged with the energy division of French conglomerate Alstom, a $13.5 billion deal that is providing GE with a major boost in offshore as well as a firm foothold in Europe. The deal was approved by EU and US regulators and closed in November 2015.
The newly formed GE Renewables — based in Paris — is headed by Jerome Pecresse, the former president of Alstom Renewable Power, while GE's former head of renewables, Anne McEntee, remains in the US and in charge of onshore wind. She reports to Pecresse.
In late August, French nuclear engineering group Areva reportedly rejected GE's non-binding offer for assets of Areva's Adwen offshore joint venture with Gamesa. Areva has since accepted a bid for its 50% stake in Adwen from Gamesa.
GE has scored a major home win offshore in the US with the Haliade. The first offshore-wind project in the Americas, the 30MW Block Island expected online in November, features five of the turbines.
Upcoming GE products include the spaceframe tower and the Eco Rotr, the clownish "big nose" hemisphere that would be attached to the centre of the wind turbine and redirect wind towards the outer parts of the blades.
Still, GE's biggest weakness is that it is the most leveraged in one market — the US — of any OEM globally except for Goldwind in China.
The firm may have mastered what some call the "capacity constrained" onshore market of the US, and most emerging markets, but can it make major inroads into "space constrained" markets, where bigger turbines make sense?
It has yet to sell many of its 3-3.4MW machine, but its release shows that GE is thinking about such markets. These include India, some Latin American countries such as Chile, Bolivia and Peru, and most central European markets, according to BNEF.
Current focus: Making the most of the PTC bubble
Chief concern: Over-dependence on home market
Siemens is building an offshore factory in Cuxhaven, Germany, to complement its site in Brande, Denmark
The €9.3 billion merger of Siemens and Gamesa is not due to complete until the first quarter of 2017, so this will be the last year they are ranked separately.
Siemens at least will be going out on something of a high. FTI Intelligence research suggests its market share dropped from around 10% in 2014 to 8% last year, but the balance sheet now looks in much better shape.
Profit for the second and third quarters of the company's 2016 financial year stood at €137 million and €143 million respectively, against a €44 million loss and a €51 million profit in the same quarters of 2015.
The 2016 Q3 announcement also included €2.73 billion worth of orders, compared with €693 million for the same period a year earlier.
After years of having the offshore market pretty much to itself, Siemens has found itself facing tougher competition of late, notably from MHI Vestas and GE Alstom.
It has responded with a series of upgrades to its large direct-drive turbine, first unveiled as a 6MW machine in 2011, boosted to 7MW last year, and now being developed for a nameplate capacity of 8MW, with certification expected early in 2018.
The company has also hinted clearly at a 10MW-plus platform becoming available by around 2025.
Onshore, the hardware focus has been on extending and developing the geared SWT-2.3MW platform and the direct-drive SWT-3.2-3.4MW series.
The smaller turbine, a strong competitor in the US market, is available with rotor diameters of 101, 108 and 120 metres, and with towers to provide a hub height range of 78.3-115 metres.
The 3.2-3.4MW platform, developed with the land-constrained and mediumto low-wind markets of northern Europe in mind, can be specified with rotor diameters of 101, 108, 113 and 130 metres.
The SWT-3.3-130 was judged best 3MW-plus onshore turbine in Windpower Monthly's 2015 top turbine awards.
How Siemens will integrate its onshore turbine range with Gamesa's remains to be seen. Both firms make 3.3MW machines aimed at mediumand low-wind sites, but they are fundamentally different designs.
Current focus: Offshore and established markets
Chief concern: How to merge business with Gamesa
Inner life… Inside a Gamesa turbine
Created in 1994, Gamesa's days as a standalone wind-turbine manufacturer are drawing to a close as its merger with Siemens nears completion.
The joint venture, split 59/41 between Siemens and Gamesa, will have its onshore headquarters in Spain, with current Gamesa chairman Ignacio Martin at the helm.
FTI Intelligence placed Gamesa fifth on its list of wind turbine OEMs in 2015, with a 5.4% market share, representing around 3.4GW of new installed capacity.
The company claims more than 35GW of installed wind capacity across 55 countries, as well as responsibility for the service and maintenance of over 22GW.
Gamesa recorded a modest net profit of €170 million in its 2015 financial results, although that was an 85% increase on the previous year.
Revenues from turbine sales grew by 26%, with the company's service sector showing an 8% increase. The acquisition of a 50% share in turbine data firm NEM Solutions in late 2015 has further boosted its O&M and service division.
India and Latin America now account for the bulk of Gamesa's business. It took nearly 35% of the Indian market in 2015, up from 25% in 2014, and is set to open its third production facility in the country later this year, dedicated to producing blades for the G114 2MW turbine.
A nacelle factory opened in 2013 was extended the following year to produce nacelles for the popular G114 model. The 2MW platform, with rotor diameters ranging from 80 to 114 metres, accounts for most sales.
Orders are now being taken for the new 2.5MW series, which received type certification in November 2015 and can be specified with rotor diameters up to 126 metres.
Gamesa has also unveiled a 3.3MW turbine aimed at medium-wind markets, but a prototype has yet to be installed.
The fate of this machine, and the 5MW G132 that has been testing for over a year, are less than clear in the light of the Siemens merger.
Current focus: Fast-growing India and Latin-America
Chief concern: How to merge business with Siemens
Low-wind model… Enercon's EP4 4.2MW is due to start series production next year
Enercon is filling a gap in an otherwise broad product portfolio with new low-wind turbine types EP4 4.2MW and EP2 2.35MW, both beginning series production in 2017.
The E-115, 3MW type, launched in 2013, is now boosted to 3.2MW and described as also suitable for low-wind inland sites. Its other products are for medium and high wind speeds.
In all, the company boasts five technology platforms: EP1 (800-900kW), EP2 (2-2.35MW), EP3 (3.05-3.2MW), EP4 (4.2MW) and EP8 (7.58MW), each available with various blade lengths and tower heights.
Globally, Enercon has installed 25,000 turbines with more than 41GW of capacity, the most common being the E-82 type (2-3MW, launched in 2005) with more than 6,000 units.
For 2015, the company reports a 37% share of new onshore installations in Germany, and 5.1% of global onshore installations, putting it in sixth place after Goldwind, Vestas, GE, Siemens and Gamesa, according to the company. It aims for an export share of at least 50%.
Enercon has so far shunned the US and Chinese markets, but has signalled there could eventually be a return to India despite a long, ongoing legal dispute with a former Indian joint-venture partner.
The company has built up a major service portfolio numbering around 22,500 turbines - more than 90% of its global total — signing up to its EPK service package, with an average period of 15 years.
The firm expects to install around 4.1GW in 2016 and clock up revenue of at least EUR4.9 billion, expanding by about 100MW a year over the ensuing three years.
Enercon is an independent conglomerate of limited liability companies, immune to the pressures of quarterly public reporting on its stock exchange listed competitors.
In 2012, the conglomerate was placed in the Aloys Wobben Foundation, named after the company's founder. Its high-equity ratio, exceeding 50%, is widely seen as reflecting sound financial strength.
Perhaps surprisingly, key exclusive suppliers are not held within the foundation. These include foundry GZO, tower maker WEC Turmbau Emden, Enercon Support, blade manufacturer Aero Rotorblattfertigung, and service firm WEA Service West, which are all owned by Netherlands-based limited liability companies.
Current focus: Bringing new EP4 platform to market
Chief concern: Dependence on shrinking European sector
Global reach… Senvion recently bought the Indian facilities and product portfolio of German firm Kenersysy to expand its market
Senvion, formerly Repower, has now been under the wing of US private investment firm Centerbridge Partners for a year and a half, after spending the previous seven years under Suzlon's control.
While it is still early days, the company seems to be heading in the right direction.
The half-year results announced in August showed a gross profit of €268 million, compared with €252 million for the first half of 2015.
The company also claimed €5.6 billion worth of turbine deals and service contracts in the order book.
The company is now embarking on a share buy-back programme, aiming to purchase up to 6.5 million shares over the next two years, equivalent to 10% of the share capital issued when it was floated on the stock exchange in March.
Senvion has around 14GW in operation worldwide, of which just over 2GW was installed in 2015, according to FTI Intelligence.
Onshore wind is served by two product platforms: the MM series of 2.0-2.05MW turbines with rotor diameters of 82, 92.5 and 100 metres, and hub heights ranging from 59 to 100 metres; and the 3.XM family of 3.0-3.4MW machines, with rotor diameters of 104, 114 and 122 metres, and hub heights of 73 to 143 metres.
New to the range is the 3.4M140, aimed at the low-wind and low-noise sectors. The specification for this model, which has a 25-year design life, was launched at last year's Husum event.
The US market has been targeted for future growth.Senvion is pitching its longer-life designs as representing the best way of addressing the challenges posed by the phase-out of the production tax credit. The company currently ranks ninth in the US market, a long way behind GE, Vestas and Siemens.
"I have a lot of respect for the big three, but the key here is agility," said Senvion executive vice-president Bernhard Telgmann at AWEA 2016.
"We used to have a slow decision-making structure. Now we are seeing decisions made overnight. It creates a momentum from the top."
Current focus: Low-wind, low-noise, long-life opportunities
Chief concern: Offshore turbine struggling to compete
Nordex CEO Lars Bondo Krogsgaard
Nordex's acquisition of Spanish conglomerate Acciona's wind division, Acciona Windpower (AWP), effective on 1 April 2016, is a gamechanger.
AWP is about half the size of Nordex in terms of 2015 sales, and the German manufacturer believes combining the two "gives rise to a globally positioned company capable of addressing around 85% (excluding China) of the global onshore market."
Nordex thinks its new constellation will shift it to number five in the global onshore-wind pecking order, thanks to expected installations of around 3.8GW in an overall market of about 45GW in 2017. The company also expects synergy effects worth €95 million per year out of the deal, beginning from 2019.
The companies dovetail geographically, Nordex's strong presence in Europe complementing AWP's position in the Americas and in emerging markets, particularly Brazil and India.Nordex has made it clear that, although existing European markets continue to provide "a solid basis for business", the focus "is now on non-European markets to generate growth", in particular the US, Mexico, Latin America and India.
Nordex says its turbine types, assembled in Rostock in Germany, are particularly suitable for complex projects requiring sophisticated technological solutions. In contrast, AWP's products are used primarily in large-scale projects for unconstrained terrains.
Nordex's turbine ranges comprise the 2.4MW and 2.5MW Generation Gamma and the Generation Delta platform with 3MW and 3.3MW, plus two new 3.6MW versions unveiled at last month's WindEnergy Hamburg.
AWP offers 1.5MW and 3MW machines, also for all wind classes, which are assembled in Spain, the US and Brazil, with a new factory under construction in India.
While the Nordex/AWP union looks a good fit, no merger is perfect. AWP has a similar risk structure to the rest of the Nordex group "with a particular accumulation of individual technical risks", admits Nordex.
Diversification into service is not yet marked. Around 92% of Nordex sales in the first half 2016 stemmed from wind projects and just 8% from service, although service could provide a stable continuous income relatively immune to the ebb and flow of turbine sales.
Orders in the service segment were valued at €1.14 billion in mid-2016, equivalent to around 30% of current combined Nordex/AWP annual revenue.
There are no significant individual risks that are liable to compromise the Nordex Group's going-concern status, the firm stressed.
But Nordex has had problems with external component suppliers, showing that its low degree of vertical integration in manufacturing can have downsides. Exclusive production of the Generation Delta 131-metre blades at Nordex's Rostock factory could be an Achilles heel if output were unexpectedly interrupted.
Current focus: Building presence outside Europe
Chief concern: Relatively low service revenues
Best seller… Goldwind led the world in terms of market share in 2015, thanks to its dominance of its huge domestic market
In 2015 a Chinese manufacturer became the world's biggest-selling turbine maker for the first time. Goldwind's dominance of wind power's biggest market — in a record-breaking boom year — propelled it above the long-established European and US players to the top of the list.
Goldwind supplied one in eight of every megawatt of wind power installed last year, close to 7.9GW according to FTI Intelligence.
But virtually all of that (around 7.5GW) was in China. The company has yet to crack export markets in a significant way, although the high-profile presence of its Chicago-based Goldwind Americas arms at AWEA 2016 demonstrated that it intends to keep trying.
The outstanding sales success has been reflected in the balance sheet, with the firm recording a profit of CNY 2.9 billion ($427 million) in 2015, up from CNY 1.85 billion in 2014.
The foundation of the company's fortunes lie in its direct-drive 1.5MW platform, continually developed and refined from a 2004 Vensys design.
It is well-proven, reliable and, above all, very competitively priced. More than 13,000 examples are currently in operation.
The 2.5MW platform shares the same permanent magnet direct-drive principles, and is similarly based on a Vensys design. It is available with rotor diameters of 100, 109 and 121 metres. Variants on these two platforms include the GW115-2MW model, aimed at low-wind markets.
The company has also built a 6MW offshore prototype, but development appears to have stalled.
Last year's results will be a hard act to follow. The Chinese market is tightening up, focusing more on quality rather than quantity over the next few years.
It is unlikely that the 30GW of capacity installed in 2015 will be equalled, let alone beaten for some years. Goldwind's grip on its domestic market — it took a 25% share of new installations in 2015 while no other Chinese manufacturer managed more than 10% — should ensure that it rides through this downturn without too much pain.
Current focus: Consolidating number one status
Chief concern: Slowdown in China, poor export sales
Growth forecast… India is looking to add an average of 5GW of wind power a year to meet 2022 renewables target
Judged on recent capacity installation alone, Suzlon is a long way from being a top-ten OEM. But there are sound reasons for the presence of India's leading turbine maker in this list.
The company is in better financial shape than it has been for some time, and is ideally placed to take advantage of a market poised for spectacular growth.
As part of an overall renewables target of 175GW, the Indian government is aiming for 60GW of wind power by March 2022. That is more than double the country's current capacity, and requires an average of 5GW of new build a year to achieve.
It is an undeniably ambitious target, but one that represents a huge opportunity for India's wind industry, in which Suzlon has played a leading role for more than 20 years.
The product range now consists of just two turbine models - the 2.1MW S97 and S111. Both are available with a range of steel and hybrid towers of 90 to 120 metres.
The S111, aimed at low-wind markets, was included in Suzlon's sale of former subsidiary Senvion to Centerbridge Partners in April 2015. Centerbridge has the licence to market the turbine in the US market.
The sale of Senvion put a much-needed €1 billion of ballast into Suzlon's debt-laden balance sheet. Now the company has to react quickly to India's changing energy landscape with competitive auctions likely to play a growing role in securing wind-project contracts.
Competition will be fierce. Suzlon cannot rely on its past reputation to build its market share. It lost its status as the country's leading wind-turbine supplier to Gamesa in 2014, and China's manufacturers, anticipating something of a downturn in their own market over the next few years, have their eyes on the India's growing market, too.
Current focus: Taking advantage of growing home market
Chief concern: Limited product range against rivals
Expansion… Envision is now developing projects outside China to build a track record for its turbines
Envision is making a name for itself away from its native China this year, earning it a spot among the top global manufacturers.
To help its expansion and prove its market reliability, Envision has started to develop projects too, in order to build a track record for its turbines.
It won the licence for a 90MW project in Mexico's first power auction in May, after acquiring a controlling stake in a 600MW development portfolio in October 2015 from ViveEnergia. The company is also competing in Argentina's renewable-energy tender, the results of which are due to be announced in October.
Envision had the largest stand at September's WindEnergy Hamburg event in Germany, showing its commitment to growing in Europe, and is developing a 25MW project in Sweden, also acquired in 2015.
The firm is using European and American experience to improve its offerings in the west. Its Global Innovation Centre in Denmark is led by former Vestas and Gamesa researcher Anders Rebsdorf, while Europe, Middle East and Africa business development is headed by John Childs, previously senior vice-president of sales and marketing for northern Europe at Vestas
The manufacturer has a European-targeted 3MW turbine with a 120-metre rotor installed at the national test centre in Osterild, Denmark, where MHI-Vestas and Siemens have installed their large offshore prototypes.
In the US, the firm has a blade R&D centre in Colorado, led by Kevin Standish, a former Siemens chief engineer of blades, as well as a global digital innovation lab in California and a digital energy research centre in Texas.
Envision has made good progress into new markets away from the crowded Chinese one. While the impact is still minimal, the potential is there.
Current focus: Gaining market share in US and Europe
Chief concern: Has to prove technology is competitive.
By: Shaun Campbell, Ros Davidson, Sara Knight, David Weston