Opportunities for component supply in the wind industry do not just lie in selling to turbine manufacturers directly. There is increasing demand in the repair and refurbishment market, which often means supplying the turbine owners or their maintenance service partners instead. This is especially true with the average warranty now only valid for about two years, says Kacy Easley of John Deere Renewables. The company owns a number of Suzlon machines that will be coming off warranty soon, so has been talking to potential suppliers to ensure a steady flow of replacement parts in the future, says Easley.
For others the need is to find replacement parts for turbines that have been operating for as long 20 years to avoid having to install a new machine entirely. But no one is currently making generators for third-party, after-market repair needs, says Joe Longo of the North American Wind Service Alliance (NAWSA), a network of eight independent wind energy equipment repair shops located throughout the US. And with demand for new units continuing to grow, the problem is compounded. "The manufacturers are making thousands of generator units, but when one out in the field becomes unrepairable, it is hard to get a one-off unit," he says. "They will not pull them offline because of their contract commitments." Longo is pursuing joint venture arrangements with wind turbine suppliers so that if a client needs ten generators, a NAWSA manufacturing facility could build small batches of replacement units under licence.
"We can make them and it will not put a cramp in the production of the major guys," he says. "I think the biggest, greatest potential market right now is to start manufacturing generators here in the US because the market is so big and growing so fast. It merits putting in another plant in the US to supply the turbine manufacturers and the aftermarket demand."