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Demand grows for retired turbine models -- Supply shortages create opportunities for Asian industry

Smaller wind turbines long dropped from the sales ranges of leading manufacturers are being produced in Asia for the European, North American and Latin American markets where there are long delivery times for larger machines. Reincarnations of turbines in the 225 kW to 600 kW size range are being made in India, Korea and also Russia, according to component suppliers.

Going into competition with Vestas is its own Indian subsidiary, Vestas RRB, which last month announced a sales deal with Dutch company Windbrokers, which was set up in 2003 as an agent for sale of second-hand turbines (Windpower Monthly, May 2004). It is the first time in the 20 year history of RRB Vestas that it has sold turbines outside India. Windbrokers will market RRB Vestas 225 kW turbines on lattice towers and 500 kW and 600 kW turbines on tubular towers at both 50Hz and 60Hz grid frequencies for the European and American markets.

The deal has been agreed with the full knowledge and blessing of Vestas in Denmark, assures Sarvesh Kumar, chief operating officer at Vestas RRB. "Our deal with Windbrokers only extends the Vestas portfolio as we continue to buy blades and parts for our smaller turbines from them," Kumar says. Vestas owns 49% of Vestas RRB, which to date has installed 1500 wind turbines (500 MW) in India. From Vestas headquarters, vice-president of communication Peter Kruse confirms the deal has been made with the full agreement of Vestas and is not regarded as a competitive threat.

Kumar foresees potential this year for around 50-100 MW of international sales. The one-year agreement with Windbrokers will be extended, he says only if "they deliver as per our expectations." He expects the 600 kW model to be the most requested. Production capacity at Vestas RRB is for 300 MW of turbines a year. In 2006, the company expects to make 200 MW for the Indian market. Vestas RRB is also planning a new $23 million factory in Chennai, 14 kilometres from its present facility, with production capacity for 400 MW of turbines and blades a year.

Big demand

According to Dick Vermeulen of Windbrokers, there is considerable demand around the world for smaller turbines, even though mainstream manufacturers have dropped their old models from production lines. The smallest machine made by Vestas is a 850 kW unit, produced at its Italian factory and mainly for the local market. Until now, Windbrokers has specialised in marketing refurbished used turbines taken down in Germany and the Netherlands to make way for larger, state-of-the-art technology in repowering projects. But the repowering market outside Denmark has been slower to take off than expected. The deal with Vestas RRB creates a "unique market proposition, which we hope will fill our order book rapidly," says Vermeulen.

Among the leading turbine manufacturers, requests from companies interested in acquiring the production rights to retired models are common and among component suppliers deliveries to companies making older turbines has started. But there is discussion in the industry about whether reincarnations of long-dropped designs is a good idea.

Siemens Wind Power receives regular requests for production licences of models the company no longer makes, but declines them on principle. The company is not prepared to take the risk of allowing poor quality turbines onto the market that are connected with its name, says communications officer Martin Olesen. The policy is a continuation of the principle set by Bonus before it was sold to Siemens.

An established trend

Vestas RRB is not the only producer of Danish turbines in India with a connection to Vestas. The Natural Energy Processing Company (NEPC), a one-time partner of NEG Micon before its merger with Vestas, produces wind turbines ranging in size from 225 kW to 750 kW. Its 250 kW machine, in particular, is a direct descendant of NEG Micon technology. Pioneer Asia Wind Turbines also makes turbines rated at 250-300 kW, descendants from the Danish Wincon line which had its roots in Micon. Blades for various of the turbines are supplied by LM Glasfiber. Pioneer Asia has also struck a deal with Spain's Gamesa to produce its 850 kW turbine.

In China, Goldwind is making 600 kW and 750 kW turbine based on a licence from Germany's Repower. Repower's focus is currently on installation of two 5 MW machines off the east coast of Scotland.

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