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Germany

Germany

A rare peek behind the scenes

After another block buster year, German wind turbine manufacturer Enercon is forecasting a slow down over the next 12 months. The company, which lies fourth in the world rankings in terms of annual wind turbine supply, reports that sales increased by 24% to EUR 2.4 billion in 2007, compared with EUR 1.94 billion in 2006. This year, however, annual growth will drop to 14%, with Enercon supplying 3.2 GW, up from 2.2 GW last year, according to the company's Dieter Kettwig.

As a privately owned company, German Enercon is not obliged to open its books to regular public scrutiny, but occasionally it lifts the veil on its activities as the fourth largest wind turbine supplier, now with half its sales occurring outside Germany

After another block buster year, German wind turbine manufacturer Enercon is forecasting a slow down over the next 12 months. The company, which lies fourth in the world rankings in terms of annual wind turbine supply, reports that sales increased by 24% to EUR 2.4 billion in 2007, compared with EUR 1.94 billion in 2006. This year, however, annual growth will drop to 14%, with Enercon supplying 3.2 GW, up from 2.2 GW last year, according to the company's Dieter Kettwig.

The 2008 forecast may turn out to be conservative. Already in the first quarter of the year Enercon installed 611 MW, up on the 544 MW from the same period in 2007 and 386 MW in 2006. Manufacturing capacity is also being ramped up from the current 435,000 square metres around the world to 500,000 square metres, says Klaus Peters, the company's head of production.

In Germany, Enercon produced around 1500 turbines last year. Of these, 1000 were 2 MW and 2.3 MW units and the rest its 800 kW and 900 kW machines. In India it churned out 500 of the sub-megawatt units and in Brazil a further 300 of the 800 kW machines. Enercon also has facilities producing blades and generators for the 2 MW and 2.3 MW machines, a blade factory in Turkey and it builds towers in Sweden.

The Enercon group today comprises 35 private limited companies and employs around 10,000 people directly and indirectly. Components are made by 45 external suppliers. The company expects to invest around EUR 105 million this year, EUR 5 million more than it spent last year and up on the EUR 90 million the year before that. The bulk of the money is for new production facilities.

New German factories

Construction started in April on a EUR 35 million iron foundry in Germany at Südbrookmerland/Georgsheil, close to a reopened rail line providing a link to the port of Emden. The foundry will be ready to fire up in December 2009. With the global supply of spherical cast iron having been close to capacity for years, the new foundry means Enercon "will secure its growing need for this key component into the long term."

The opening of the rail route allows for cost effective transport to Emden, where Enercon typically has three ships loading with wind turbines for export at any one time. Reopening the rail line cost EUR 10.2 million, but EUR 4.9 million came from the state of Lower Saxony. Enercon is in talks with Emdens's port company to extend its quay to accommodate four ships at a time.

Enercon is also planning a new concrete tower factory near its Aurich headquarters but does not specify when it will be built. A new Enercon division set up in Aurich last year, Metalltechnologie Aurich (MTA), produces aluminium nacelle housings and generator rings. MTA also takes care of machining of cast components and steel parts. Local production near the Aurich turbine assembly plant avoids the need to transport large parts by road from two Enercon facilities at Magdeburg-Rothensee in eastern Germany. These facilities are nonetheless being retained. Enercon commissioned a new generator impregnation plant at Magdeburg-Rothensee last year, raising annual capacity by 3000 units and it intends to expand production further. The parts can be transported directly to Aurich by rail.

In Portugal too

Outside Germany, Enercon is close to completing production facilities at Viano del Castelo in Portugal for generators, electronic modules and rotor blades as well as an assembly works and space for service and administration. In all, the development covers 49,000 square metres. It agreed to build the facilities as part of a winning bid for 1200 MW of wind capacity in a government tender -- Enercon is part of the winning consortium led by Energias de Portugal (Windpower Monthly, December 2006).

The Portuguese blade factory released the first 36 blades in April. Total production will reach 500 blades this year, although three-shift operation will eventually increase annual output to 650 blades, says the company. A concrete tower factory in Portugal will be completed in the summer and the generator plant will start output in late autumn. Enercon also plans to build another blade factory in Portugal, says Peters.

Sail powered transport

Indeed, Portugal will become a major export centre for Enercon. The firm has ordered a 130 metre transport vessel, which should be ready at the end of 2008, to carry 12, 2 MW machines at a time. The vessel will be sail powered and equipped with a propeller with 5% higher efficiency than comparable propellers, says Enercon owner Aloys Wobben.

While 55% of Enercon's production went to foreign markets in 2007, the company is still very much dependent on its home market, where it had a 54% market share in 2007. Like others in the German wind industry, Enercon is concerned about the course of the now seven month long debate on amending the national renewable energy law. "The current 2% per year decrease in payments for new plant coming on line each year is proving fatal," says Kettwig. "We recommend looking at our neighbours as Germany is in part lagging behind. If we in Germany want to lead the field then we need to step on the accelerator."

The company, adds Wobben, is ready to start series production of its 6 MW turbine. "In terms of efficiency the 6 MW turbine is the best machine we've ever produced," he says. Eleven 6 MW units are being installed in Belgium this year and next (Windpower Monthly, May 2008).

Enercon's report on current progress and future plans was presented at the Hanover International Industry Trade Fair in April. As one of just three dedicated wind turbine companies it exhibited at the fair alongside Vestas and German wind turbine supplier Fuhrländer.

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