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A healthy market needs choice

The news that Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) is stopping production of Adwen's 8MW offshore turbine did not come as a huge surprise. SGRE has an 8MW turbine of its own, already operating in 6MW form, with dedicated production facilities and a healthy order book.

It is a direct-drive unit too, which limited any potential technology crossover with the geared Adwen turbine.

The decision may be understandable, but it leaves offshore wind-turbine supply in the hands of an SGRE and MHI Vestas duopoly.

The only other manufacturers in the sector are Senvion and GE, and their turbines are well behind the big two's in rated capacity and rotor diameter.

If they are to compete, they will need 10MW-plus machines on their production lines sooner rather than later.

Senvion lacks the financial muscle to do this alone, while GE has very little experience in offshore technology.

Healthy competition is vital if offshore wind is going to continue to drive down costs, but a market that only gives developers a choice of two turbine suppliers does not look healthy.

Merkel's dilemma

Angela Merkel winning a fourth term of office as chancellor of Germany came as little surprise either. But the make-up of the coalition she will form, and how it will affect wind power, is unclear.

It looks like the end of the "grand coalition", with the centre-left Social Democrats, after suffering their worst post-war election result, going into opposition. That could mean Merkel's Christian Democrats having to work with both the "pro-business" FDP and the Green Party.

Finding an agreement that will satisfy both parties looks like a hard circle to square. The FDP, for example, wants to impose a minimum distance between turbines and dwellings of ten times the turbine's tip height. With today's tower technology and long rotor blades that could mean a distance of 1,500 to 2,000 metres.

A similar policy has brought onshore-wind development in Poland to a screeching halt, and would do precisely the same in Germany.

The Greens, on the other hand, aim for 100% of Germany's electricity to be generated from renewables by 2030, while phasing out coal and lignite.

Can Merkel really bring these parties together with an energy policy that also satisfies the demands of the country's substantial wind-power businesses?

The industry was highly critical of the government's direction at the Husum wind fair in September. The election result will not have lightened the mood.

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