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Germany

THIN VEIL DRAWN OVER INDUSTRY FEARS, Hannover Trade Fair

The Hannover Fair seems to have become the largest and most important exhibition for the international wind industry but the buoyant wind exhibition only barely masked the industry's growing fears that the German market appears to have peaked more sharply than expected, after five years of explosive growth. Winkra-Recom ran a 1.5 day wind energy symposium aimed at giving a market overview for Germany and abroad, an analysis of the main political and financial characteristics of the German market, a detailed look at technical demands on wind turbines and the latest innovations.

The buoyant wind exhibition at this year's huge Hannover Trade Fair only barely masked the industry's growing fears that the German market appears to have peaked more sharply than expected. Behind the scenes, manufacturers were discussing staff lay-offs and belt tightening strategies for adjusting to a market which, after five years of explosive growth, is now slowing down -- and perhaps even faster than market analysts predicted towards the end of last year.

Meantime, during the last week of April wind companies put on a good show at Hannover. For the second year running, the industry took around half the exhibition space in Hall 14 -- an area devoted to renewable energies. The Hannover Fair already seems to have become the largest and most important exhibition for the international wind industry.

Yet it was not sales but politics which became the main talking point at many of the stands. Just as the fair started, news leaked out of a proposal from the Lower Saxony Economy Ministry to limit payments for wind under the Electricity Feed Law, currently the major pillar of support for the renewable energy market in Germany (see story page 22). The news, from one of the windiest states, added to the general discomfort over the market's slowing growth rate.

On the exhibition floor, though, it was down to business, with some companies displaying the very latest in wind technology, while others consolidated on tried and tested products. Tacke Windtechnik displayed the nacelle of its new 1.5 MW machine and GET, also proving it was in the megawatt class, showed off the 1.2 MW Autoflug turbine. GET and Autoflug merged earlier this year (Windpower Monthly, February 1996). Others, like Enercon with its long known E40, took a lower profile.

Among the exhibition's attention grabbers was Dutch NedWind's offer of a three year guarantee with free service and maintenance for customers placing orders at the fair and for the following three months. The guarantee period is normally for two years. And Wind World from Denmark created a stir by hanging a price tag on its new 750 kW machine of just DEM 875,000.

Two companies exhibiting at Hannover, but yet to gain a foothold in Germany, were Zond Systems from the US and Spanish Made, the wind turbine manufacturing subsidiary of national utility Endesa. Both companies professed an interest in tackling what is now a tense German market. Zond's Jean-Pierre Bourgeacq said his product would be "ideal for farmers" especially as "our design is so simple even the local blacksmith could maintain it and we have the only turbine with a Germanischer Lloyd certificate for a 30 year life span." But both Zond and Made's primary concern was to use the Hannover show case to gain an impression of the market. For Bourgeacq Hannover was an opportunity to "feel the water" and "show our faces to the other European countries like Italy, France and Greece which are on the brink of creating a wind market."

Martin Lawrenz of Winkra-Recom, which organised the renewables exhibition, said the number of visitors appeared to be up by about 10% on the 1995 fair. Several manufacturers reported a quiet first day, apart from the usual wave of component vendors doing the rounds. However, this was followed by much busier visitor traffic during the rest of the week. Winkra-Recom also ran a one and a half day wind energy symposium attracting some 670 participants spread across three blocks of paper presentations. As in 1995, this proved to be by far the most popular part of the four day renewables congress, which also covered energy storage systems, photovoltaic and geothermal technologies. The symposium aimed at giving a market overview for Germany and abroad, an analysis of the main political and financial characteristics of the German market as well as a detailed look at the technical demands made on wind turbines and the latest innovations.

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