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Getting in with the big boys at powergen, the staging of this year«s major power industry in Spain - the most dynamic national market for wind energy right now - ensured that several companies were ke

The staging of this year's major power industry conference, Power-Gen Europe '97, in Spain--the most dynamic national market for wind right now--ensured that several companies were keen to show they were involved in wind turbine manufacture, if only as a fringe business.

Spain's emergence as one of Europe's fastest growing wind power producers clearly had an impact at the Power-Gen Europe '97 exhibition, a major annual meeting of the electricity industry. This year it fielded what was probably the largest number of companies ever to promote their involvement in wind energy at a general gathering of the power industry.

Japanese Mitsubishi, French utility EDF, and Spanish companies Abengoa, Bazan and utility Endesa, all gave considerable space to their wind power divisions at the event, held last month outside Madrid. Spain's government centre for renewables, IDAE, provided a prominent display of its wind power projects, while German/Danish wind turbine manufacturer Nordex Balcke-Dürr showed off a full scale model of its 600 kW turbine.

Power-Gen's sudden interest in wind was no doubt helped by the host nation's bid to become a wind power superpower in Europe. Spain is not only installing 100 MW a year at the moment -- with expectations to increase the current 312 MW to 654 MW by 1998 -- it is still at a stage when partnerships are being forged. Spanish and non-Spanish companies are still seeking to strike deals aimed at enhancing their share of the increasingly competitive wind market that Spain has become. Power-Gen seemed to be a place where such deals are brokered.

Norbert Dwenger of Nordex Balcke-Dürr, one of the few foreign firms with an interest in Spain still "unmarried" to a Spanish company, admitted his firm went to considerable expense to put up its exhibit with the idea of attracting a Spanish partner "We are here not only to sell turbines, but to seek alliances and even become involved in the building of wind farms in Spain," said Dwenger.

Other exhibitors with wind power interests at Power-Gen '97 included Bazan, Spain's national shipbuilding company which has an agreement with developers SeaWest and Tomen for supply of Danish Bonus wind turbines (story page 21). According to the firm's Alvaro Lobo, Bazan will be supplying 150 MW of turbines for projects in Galicia by 1999.

Back door into China

It also became apparent at Power-Gen that Spain might be attracting wind companies from abroad for other reasons. Denmark is in China's bad books for its disapproval of Peking's human rights record. Although the Danish industry disputes that the cooling of Danish-Chinese relations has affected its business (story page 8), supplying turbines to China made by a Spanish subsidiary would allow them to fly a Spanish flag of convenience. This subtle lesson in political economics was supplied by Dwenger and two representatives of Expac China, a trading company with its main offices in Hong Kong.

Expac's Lars Andersson and Percy Hamilton are seeking partnership with a Spanish manufacturer to export turbines to China for development of wind farms in the north, on the border with Mongolia. "We've come to Spain for a number of reasons, but specifically because of the trade problems Denmark is encountering with China on account of the rights situation," explained Andersson. "We are shopping around in the hope we can find a big enough manufacturer here to supply turbines in the quantity and of the quality that the Chinese authorities require." Andersson and Hamilton agreed that although some of the companies they had approached in Spain were part owned by Danish firms, objections from Chinese authorities were unlikely as long as the turbines were nominally Spanish.

Another reason for the interest in Spain as a potential platform for foreign trade in wind power is the $600 million earmarked by the government for overseas development. They are available to any company exporting Spanish technology or goods to developing nations, including renewable power systems. Expac China hopes to access the funds for its wind farm plans in China.

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