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European turbine made in America -- Westinghouse back into wind

The North American market will soon gain a new domestic turbine manufacturer following an agreement between California based Composite Technology Corp (CTC), which owns the German DeWind line of wind turbines, and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company. Production of the DeWind 2 MW unit will begin this summer in an existing TECO-Westinghouse commercial manufacturing facility in Round Rock, Texas. Up to 57 units are scheduled to roll off the production line by the end of the year and a further 200 units in 2008.

It is not the first time that Westinghouse, once a significant symbol of American prowess in power generation, has been involved in wind turbine manufacture. Back in the 1980s, the company developed the giant Ministry of Defense (MOD) wind turbines for the US government and manufactured 15, two-bladed 600 kW wind turbines that were installed on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. And for a brief spell in the 1990s, Westinghouse was poised to produce machines for Enercon, Germany's leading wind turbine company, for the North American market. The deal fell through after Enercon technology was banned from North America following patent disputes with the now defunct Kenetech wind turbine company. Despite Westinghouse's history in the wind business, the DeWind deal is the first wind turbine manufacturing endeavour for TECO-Westinghouse, stresses the company.

"Westinghouse, as everyone knew it, truly no longer exists," says Lana DeLeon, speaking for the company. Westinghouse divested many of its divisions and assets some years ago as it became more interested in owning media companies. TECO-Westinghouse, in its new company structure, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Taiwan-based TECO. The name Westinghouse is licensed by TECO from CBS Viacom and the new TECO-Westinghouse in Texas is based on the industrial motor division of the former Westinghouse when it was a broad-based industrial giant. TECO is a conglomerate of diversified interests.

As an industrial motor company, TECO-Westinghouse has worked with GE Energy on wind units from 750 kW to 1.5 MW, according to Michael Bachmeyer, head of new business development at the company. He adds that TECO-Westinghouse wanted to do more in wind power than occasional projects. In Round Rock, the company operates a 500,000 square foot facility, complete with a 200 ton, single lift, heavy crane, only half of which is currently in use. "It's a heavy manufacturing facility so we thought it would be a natural fit for nacelles and hubs," says Bachmeyer. "Once we had decided to move into wind, it took us about three weeks to find a partner."

Chequered history

The DeWind turbine brand has had a chequered history. After installation of about 350 MW of DeWind turbines in Germany, the financially troubled company passed from private German ownership into the hands of the British FKI group in 2002. FKI subsequently dumped DeWind in 2004 after an extensive exercise in mopping up technology and customer service problems, admitting its investment had been a loss making venture. The remains of DeWind were taken on by a British investor, Michael Porter, under the name EU Energy. It was subsequently bought last year by CTC, which at the time was coming out of bankruptcy. CTC and EU Energy share a prior history.

Effective last month, EU Energy is now dissolved into the CTC corporate umbrella, according to Peter Ziegler of DeWind. CTC will take the lead on marketing DeWind turbines and sourcing towers and blades. TECO-Westinghouse will be the contract manufacturer solely for the North American market, for now, while CTC will market and the sell the turbines world wide.

TECO-Westinghouse will use its own global supply chain for the nacelles and hubs it produces for DeWind. Ziegler says CTC is also preparing to use 90 metre diameter rotors that should be ready at the end of 2007. They are intended for lower wind speed sites in America and Mexico.

The transmission of the new DeWind 2 MW model avoids conflicting the North American patent for variable speed turbines, now owned by GE, by employing a specially developed "WinDrive hydrodynamic torque converter" developed by Germany's Voith AG along with a synchronous AC generator that is able to connect directly to the grid without the use of an inverter. "A prototype is going up in December in Cuxhaven, Germany, at the DEWI's test facility by the North Sea," said CTC's Andy Lockhart last month. The torque converter allows a constant speed rotation of the generator enabling it to feed 13.8 kV directly to the grid.

Service business

The CTC partnership with DeWind includes collaboration on research and development and the creation of an operations and maintenance division (O&M) to service DeWind units as they trickle into the North American market. The unit will also offer service deals on turbines from other manufacturers.

"The service opportunities in North America are tremendous and the choice of service providers is limited in today's market," says Lockhart. The business will be based on DeWind's experience servicing machines in Europe, a business painstakingly built up by FKI. Bachmeyer adds that TECO-Westinghouse's O&M services for its current motor customers will help accelerate a move into wind turbine O&M.

Bachmeyer notes the wind industry's rapid evolution from a small cottage type industry. "When the large manufacturers realised this was a big thing, they jumped right into it and now you have ... professional manufacturers involved that can control the supply chain and understand the need for lean manufacturing in order to get cost down," Bachmeyer says. "I'm not a wind expert but I've been around long enough to know there are business patterns, much like the sine wave in electric power currents, when things are up and thing are down. The wind industry has had its bumps but it's up now and it's going to be up for a long time."

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