Husum's future depends on vision and compromise

GERMANY: Husum WindEnergy's slogan of 2012 confidently read: "The leading international wind trade fair." Husum is well known for being the industry's only major conference with a firm focus on technology, and every two years it has drawn visitors from across the globe keen to keep up with the industry news and views on product developments. The banners around the show this year invited participants to the next event, in 2014, celebrating a 25-year span of the Husum event. A bitter dispute has emerged, however, over whether the event should be held in the town of Husum next year, and a rival bid for the event has come from nearby Hamburg.

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Very much an industry event hosted in northern Germany, Husum is also home to some of the earliest innovations in wind energy development. I visited the event for the first time in 1995, and was particularly taken with the final part of the journey along the coast through rural Schleswig Holstein, where I could see German wind power past and present flash by me. But, had I not been rescued by a Tacke Windtechnik official offering me a spare room in the hotel where they were staying some 12 kilometres away, I could have been without accommodation in a small town already bursting with wind industry visitors. Fortunately, I missed this disadvantage and the positive experience and relaxed open atmosphere turned me into a regular Husum Wind visitor.

The event started as a humble regional initiative in 1989, but has since put the town firmly on the global wind industry map. Contributing to the tradition and overall charm of the event is the scenic city centre and a unique fair, comprising several tents and one permanent exhibition hall, only recently expanded by a conference centre. But with success and growth comes increased problems with accommodation, exacerbated by less-favourable airport connections and early-morning commuter traffic jams.

The day before this year's started, Bernd Aufderheide, president and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress (HMC), announced that talks had broken down with the organisers on the future direction of this leading German wind energy fair. He pointed to organisations and companies selecting HMC to host the 2014 event. The following day when the event opened, participants could find an address from Husum mayor Uwe Schmitz in their fair catalogue, saying: "Strengthened by the decision of the major wind industry players to show again at Husum WindEnergy 2014, I promise you that the town of Husum will also do everything in its power to further consolidate this exhibition venue."

Throughout the show, I heard from some exhibitors that this year's event was a great success and they were booking again for 2014. From others I heard that Husum as a concept might have been stretched to its limits, and that moving to Hamburg is inevitable. As well as the organisers, exhibitors and business visitors were being forced to consider whether history and tradition and current satisfaction rate should be a leading motivation. Others newer to wind power or from far-away destinations might instead be inclined to prioritise good flight connections and plentiful facilities of a big city.

Quality reputation

This year the label Made in Germany celebrates its 125-year anniversary. This label was established in 1887 in the UK, part of the Merchandising Marks Act to protect the British market from poor copies from abroad - that is, Germany. But German suppliers soon found that it worked in their favour, and Made in Germany is now widely known for prestigious quality, identifying products that have at least 45% of the added value from Germany. The label started on technical product quality, then expanded to working methods and services and has recently added sustainability factors of the products.

Similar to the Husum show, the Made in Germany brand supports the reputation of Germany's powerful wind industry, and demonstrates the quality of products and worldwide demand for German skills and specialist knowledge of this industry. Being able to show these products, knowledge and expertise locally to an international audience is invaluable.

So, the plans for two competing events in the same week in two years' time could well be a recipe for disaster. The standoff creates uncertainty and confusion, and Germany's reputation and major role as a natural host of the world's most prestigious international wind fair is at stake. There is a saying about reputation - it comes by foot but leaves on horseback - that is, it takes much time and effort to build and maintain a reputation but it can be destroyed fast.

My wish is that the next two years will be used well to evaluate positions and establish what will ultimately be at stake if individual interests and rivalry are allowed to prevail over compromise and willingness to cooperate.

Eize de Vries is Windpower Monthly's technology and market trends consultant.

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