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Exhibitors pleasantly surprised

Exhibitors at this year's European Wind Energy Conference (EWEC 2006) were generally pleasantly surprised by the volume of traffic and the quality of visitor. The division of the exhibition into three floor levels -- with most of the major wind turbine suppliers grouped in the basement of the conference centre -- was not the problem many had feared.

"We have had a really good show. This morning we've even run out of staff," quipped Curt Maloy from insurer WindPro on the last day of the event in Athens. "We are used to seeing people on the upside of the learning curve. Now we are talking to people who have a project, who have permitting done, who are ready to roll," he continued. "I am talking about a number of countries -- Bulgaria, Poland, France, Spain. It has been much busier than we had thought. Most of the people who have stopped by are more sophisticated."

Maloy's comments were echoed on all three floors of the exhibition. "We had a good show. There have been a lot of people here," said Max Hansen, marketing warning lights from Flash Technologies. He added that while lighting requirements in some countries are being relaxed for wind turbines, such as in Denmark, in other countries, like Spain, they are getting tougher. He sees plenty of business in the wind industry for Flash. Another supplier of specialist services, Tony Neil from Britain's BAE Systems, radar specialists, told the same story: "We have had a good show with lots of really good international new contacts." He added that there is growing awareness on the European continent of potential conflicts between military and civil aviation radar and wind plant siting.

Luigi Maccanello from Davi, a supplier of rolling equipment for sheet steel used in the production of wind turbine towers, was impressed by how international visitors had been. "We have had contacts from all over the world, from Latin America, Australia, all over. But it's been surprisingly poor for the Greek market. We expected visits from local Greek companies looking to get into the wind business. This event seems to have been a missed opportunity to educate the people of Greece about wind power."

The lack of interest from local Greek companies was a repeated refrain from the exhibition floor. While Greek companies wanting to make contact with the wind industry at large were more than pleased with EWEC 2006, industry members hoping to make contact with local Greek suppliers were disappointed that not more had turned up. The lack of Greek interest in exhibiting was not due to lack of advertising for EWEC 2006 in the Greek media, stresses Ioannis Tsipouridis, of the Hellenic Wind Energy Association (HWEA), but more a reflection of the current unstable and uncertain situation in Greece, referring to problems surrounding the country's much-anticipated new renewable energy law.

For those Greek companies present, it was well worthwhile, however. Enallaktiki Energiaki, which supplies wind measurement masts, said there was much more interest from other European countries than it had expected. Greek project developers, in particular, were delighted at the level of interest shown by European investors and financial institutions. Chris Vouros of Energotech said it had been a "fantastic" exhibition, with much more interest than expected. "It is indicative of the amount of foreign interest in the Greek market," said Emmanouil Maragoudakis, managing director of Greek developer-operator Terna Energy. Probably for this reason, wind turbine manufacturers were equally upbeat. All the big names -- Vestas, Siemens, Enercon, Nordex, GE and Repower -- saw brisk business at their stands, though none reported actually closing any deals at the event.

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