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Sales boom as new markets open up

Over the past year more wind power generating capacity was manufactured and sold by the Danish wind industry than ever before over a 12 month period. Much of the reason for this new record -- 959 MW sold in 12 months representing a 67% increase over the previous period -- can be attributed to the opening up of relatively new markets, China and Spain in particular, reports the Danish Association of Wind Turbine Manufacturers.

"Only the Internet and the cellular telephone industry have growth rates approaching those of the Danish wind industry," says Søren Krohn of the association. "During the past four years production has quadrupled."

A steady trend towards continuous expansion has been evident for some time now, but it was the publication last month of sales figures for the second quarter of the year which provided confirmation of a boom. Orders for 234 MW of wind turbines were placed between April and June this year, providing the industry with its second best quarterly sales ever.

During the period, Denmark continued as the single largest market with purchases of 67 MW, followed by China (54 MW), Germany (37 MW), Spain (30 MW) and Britain (20 MW). Argentina, the US and the Netherlands took around 6 MW apiece, with the remaining 6 MW shared between a selection of European companies, except for three turbines which went to Australia. The best quarter ever was at the end of last year when Danish companies sold 336 MW.

China currently holds the prize for the fastest expanding wind power market (see chart). The latest Chinese order has gone to NEG Micon, born out of the recent fusion of Nordtank and Micon. It is to supply and install a 24 MW wind farm on Nanao island in the South China Sea. The island lies about 200 miles north of Hong Kong in the steadily industrialising state of Guang Dong.

The project developer is Shantou Dan-Nam Wind Power Company Ltd, a Chinese/Dutch joint venture based in Shantou on the mainland, says NEG Micon's Vagn Poulsen. The majority partner in the joint venture is NUON International, the overseas division of Dutch utility NUON, which owns a wind farm of Nordtank turbines on the shores of the IJselmeer sea in the Netherlands.

The Nanao wind farm is to consist of 40, 600 kW turbines to be delivered from Denmark, though towers will be made in China. NEG Micon has also contracted local Chinese companies to carry out the project's infrastructure work. The island, which has a grid link to the mainland and good average wind speeds in excess of 8 m/s, has been a hive of wind development activity since Nordtank broke ground there in 1993 with a project of nine 150 kW turbines.

Domestic secret

The secret of the Danish industry's success continues to lie in a buoyant home market. Domestic sales of over 300 MW between June 1996 and June 1997 -- resulting in the erection of a record breaking 537 turbines during the period -- have brought the average installation rate for the past decade to just under 90 MW a year. "Six per cent of Danish electricity consumption is now covered by wind, a figure which was only 4% a year ago," says Krohn.

The average size of turbines now being sold by Danish firms is over 600 kW. "The latest 537 turbines in Denmark produce as much electricity as the 3000 wind turbines erected during the decade from 1980 to 1990," says Krohn. There are about 4400 turbines turning in Denmark today amounting to 992 MW installed capacity with every indication that the national target of 1500 MW by 2000 will be reached ahead of time.

Some clouds

The only cloud on the horizon for the Danish industry is what could be the first sign of a weakening German market. The energy policy instability caused by the German utility sector's continuing campaign in the courts against the law which requires them to buy wind power from private operators at a premium price could now be having an effect. With sales of just 37 MW to Germany in the second quarter of the year, the market has slipped to third place behind Denmark and China. In the previous two quarters, sales to Germany from Denmark amounted to 66 MW and 82 MW and for the past several years Germany has been the largest export market.

Krohn acknowledges "there is a bit of uncertainty" about the German market. "But come 1998 and the megawatt machines you are going to see some return of Germany," he assures. Meantime, sales to Spain will more than compensate for any losses on the German front, he says. "It will be a while yet before Spain fully converts to local manufacturing," he says.

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