Starting a business while still at university based on the idealistic belief that the world's energy production should be turned 100% green could be seen as both naive and overly ambitious. For Germany's Fred Jung and Matthias Willenbacher, however, making that decision 13 years ago has got them where they are today - heading an international renewable energy firm with a turnover set to hit more than EUR1 billion in 2011.
"Energy supply with 100% renewable energy is possible for Germany and other countries now, not in the distant future," says Willenbacher.
In 1996, when the pair established Juwi as a two-man operation to develop wind power, Jung was majoring in agricultural economics at the University of Hohenheim and Willenbacher in physics at the University of Mainz. Today, they employ 300 people at Juwi's headquarters in Worrstadt, Germany, and a further 150 abroad. Their business comprises wind, solar and biomass projects in Europe, North America and Latin America and earlier this year they branched into the hydro and geothermal sectors. Juwi is now one of a handful of across-the-board renewable energy suppliers.
The company is confident of continued growth. Turnover last year was EUR400 million. This year the forecast is EUR650 million. Projects in the works, including a 3000 MW wind project portfolio, have put EUR1 billion in sight. By 2011, the number of staff is expected to top 1000 worldwide. "We are still able to finance all our projects, thanks to long-standing relationships with banks and investors who are eager to finance Juwi projects in Germany, France and the US," says Jung. A reputation for reliability and competence with the banks is "very important for Juwi since our projects are financed to a large extent with loans." Equity is supplied from three main sources: large institutional investors, energy and other companies, and Juwi itself. "This way, even in the midst of the economic crisis, we can get larger projects financed without problems," he says.
Juwi's solar photovoltaic business started in 1999 and is now its leading division for turnover. Its wind development business comes a close second, although the company will not reveal specific financial details. It lays claim to having "designed, developed and built more than 300 wind turbines," amounting to 450 MW of capacity. Most of that is installed in Germany, while around 85 MW is split between France, where it has completed four wind farms totalling 35 MW, and Costa Rica, where a 49.5 MW project is close to completion.
Within the next two years, its total installed wind capacity is set to quadruple, with a 2 GW by 2012 target. The company is "very confident" it can secure turbines for all future projects thanks to "very close and longstanding relationships" with a diverse range of manufacturers, including Germany's Enercon and Siemens, Denmark's Vestas and America's GE Energy. Last year, Juwi added Kenersys Europe, owned by India's Kalyani Group, to the list. Under a framework agreement, Kenersys will supply 35, 2.5 MW turbines to Juwi over the three years to the end of 2011 for projects in Germany and other European countries.
Juwi plans to stay fully independent. "Our independence secures us the necessary freedom to pursue a sustainable and successful company strategy that is not fixated on maximising short term profits," says Willenbacher. It will continue to focus its investment and development activities on western and southern Europe as well as on north and Latin America over the next ten years, although eastern Europe is also on its radar. Germany will remain its top market for some time. Here, it intends to install a further 800 MW of wind capacity by the end of 2012. Much of this will go up in the company's home state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where it is working closely with local communities and district authorities. "Achieving one hundred percent renewable energy is our big goal and reaching this with communal partners in Rhineland-Palatinate is an important step," says Willenbacher.
In Rhineland Palatinate, Juwi is already pioneering the use of wind energy in forested areas, with 51 turbines totalling 105 MW installed in projects at Kisselbach, Morbach, Hartenfelser Kopf and Nehring near Trier. Generating around 230 GWh a year, these machines alone supply about 3% of the state's electricity generation. In April it also formed a joint venture, BKWind, with Swiss firm BKW FMB Energie. BKWind plans to develop, install and run about 200 MW of wind plant in Germany by 2015. The first, a EUR12.4 million 8 MW project in Rhineland Palatinate, is due for commissioning next month.
Such partnerships are a key factor in its success and important for the renewables sector as a whole, says Jung. Joint construction and operation of plants "is a win-win situation and takes us a step closer to a decentralised, and therefore independent, reasonably priced and secure supply of clean energy," he adds. Subsidiary Juwi Netzwerk was founded specifically as a vehicle for establishing such co-operation, including one with energy company Pfalzwerke in Ludwigshafen to form a company called Pfalzwind in 2003 and another with municipal utility Stadtwerke Mainz in 2005, in addition to the BKW venture. It is also a partner in a recent project involving the use of a steel and concrete hybrid tower, built by Dutch tower specialist company Advanced Tower Systems (ATS), which takes turbine hub height to 133 metres and total height to 180 metres (Windpower Monthly, February 2009). Tall towers are essential to reach decent wind strengths in largely land-locked Germany.
Juwi anticipates getting 200 MW of wind capacity installed in France by 2012. "At the moment, France is our second strongest market and will continue to expand, thanks to high quality project development and our close relationships with local and regional decision makers and the local communities," says Jung. The company's French subsidiary, Juwi energie eolienne, has been operating since 2001, with offices in Normandy and Provence.
A further two projects, for 26 MW, are due online this year and another 80 MW is in the permitting process, with the total portfolio amounting to 350 MW, mostly for sites in Brittany, but also in the Normandy, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne regions.
Juwi's European portfolio spreads further east to Poland and the Czech Republic. It first began wind development in Poland in 2007 and hopes to have commissioned 50 MW there by 2012, with construction on its first project to start next year. In the Czech Republic, the company is "building on successes in the solar sector" and expects to have one or two wind projects underway or installed there by 2012, although it does not reveal details.
Further afield, Juwi has a nearly 2 GW portfolio of projects in development in the US and a few more in Latin America. It entered the US market in 2002, kicking off its activities in Kansas as JW Prairie Windpower, based in Lawrence. This division, with a 750 MW portfolio, focuses on its home state and Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa. In Kansas, it is working on the 120 MW Munkers Creek Wind Farm planned for Morris County, the 129 MW Nemaha Wind Farm in Nemaha County, and in Nebraska the 60 MW Flat Water Wind Farm in Richardson County. All will use GE 1.5 MW turbines.
In 2006, Juwi established further US ventures: JW Great Lakes Wind, based in Cleveland, Ohio, and Penn Wind in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The Great Lakes office has around 1 GW of onshore wind projects in development in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. It is also involved in a ten-turbine near shore project in the waters of Lake Erie, in cooperation with several other companies (Windpower Monthly, September 2007).
Penn Wind, unlike the other two subsidiaries, which are 100% owned by Juwi, is a 50/50 joint venture with DGP Power of Sunbury, Pennsylvania. It has a project pipeline of over 500 MW with its business focusing on Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, New England, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas.
"Our activities and services in the United States are manifold," says Juwi Wind US. "We plan and develop our own projects but also act as consultants for various services." Construction on a first 50-100 MW project "somewhere around the Midwest" is to start this year, it says, with commissioning in 2010. At least four onshore projects totalling around 250 MW should be installed in the US by 2012. "We would not rule out offshore development involvement in the Great Lakes region once this proves to be profitable, especially in view of our role as lead consultant on the Cleveland Offshore Study," adds Juwi Wind's Marie-Luise Portner.
In Latin America, the company is making a name for itself with its 49.5 MW La Gloria Proyecto Eolico Guanacaste project in Costa Rica's Guanacaste region. It is located at what the company describes as "one of the best wind sites in the world." Installation of all 55 Enercon 900 kW turbines is nearing completion as Juwi's biggest wind power project to date. The company is now planning three more projects in Costa Rica, it says, while it is also involved in consulting work in Argentina and has activities in Uruguay, Chile and Peru at different stages of development.