Changing emphasis at Hannover trade fair

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Several of the big names of the global wind industry shunned the giant Hannover Fair this year, but the new breed of German wind project developer made a surprisingly strong showing in a bid for international business now that an end to the domestic market is in sight

Flexing their increasing global market muscle, German wind project developers turned out in force at the world's biggest industry trade fair, the Hannover Messe, this year. But the style and personality of their stands at last month's giant industry exposition failed to compensate for the absence of several major turbine manufacturers. NEG Micon, Nordex, Bonus, Enron Wind (now owned by General Electric) and REpower, all on the world's top ten list of wind turbine suppliers, were among the no-shows.

Meantime, wind power developers who in past years have had no more than a low key presence at Hannover, or not chosen to exhibit at all, were very much in evidence last month. P&T Technology, Energiekontor, Umweltkontor, Plambeck Neue Energien, GHF and EBV were among those with substantial stands. "As one of Germany's largest wind development and fund marketing companies we have to be here -- and all the stockholding wind development companies have to be here too," said Ralf Heinen of Ventotec, the development arm of wind fund company GHF, which made its debut this year. The fair attracted 6926 exhibiting companies and 250,000 visitors.

Whether publicly traded or not, the common aim among the exhibiting developers was to impress potential investors at home and awaken foreign public interest in the economic potential of the windy areas of the world. Between them the companies expect to develop a combined 3000 MW at home this year, compared with a total installation of 2659 MW in 2001. But their presence at Hannover was a clear illustration of the desire to build up business abroad in the knowledge that development on land in Germany will reach saturation point in the next three or four years.

Despite the impact made by project developers, wind turbine manufacturers also made themselves felt in the energy section of the fair. The dominant wind energy stand at Hannover was that of German wind turbine manufacturer, Enercon, only second to Vestas in total number of turbines sold worldwide in 2001. In size and sophistication the Enercon stand matched that of Germany's energy giant, RWE, and attracted a visit by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on his tour of the fair on the morning of April 15 at the start of the six day event. Also keen to make a hit, Enercon competitor Fuhrländer doubled its exhibition space compared with last year, making much of its comfortable armchairs to stress its "customer service" priorities. Vestas Deutschland also had a solid presence as did Pfleiderer, though its impressive stand at Hannover was not a true reflection of its modest impact on the German wind market to date. Dewind exhibited on the stand of its shareholder, MVV Energie. The only foreign wind turbine manufacturer present was Lagerwey from the Netherlands, though its turbine development partner, ABB, drew attention to its wind activities with a small model wind station on its very large stand elsewhere at the fair.

Little wind hardware was to be seen at Hannover this year, with the exception of Fuhrländer's display outside the energy hall of its range of models from the vintage 30 kW machine to the MD70/77 1.5 MW turbine, and Enercon with its "e-module." This is a pre-assembled unit containing all grid connection components designed to fit within the foundation section of wind turbine towers.

With several big wind names missing, the industry is clearly not of one mind on the benefits of appearing at the "the international hub of high-tech, cutting edge industrial technology," as the Hannover fair describes itself. But those that journeyed to Hannover had clear reasons for being there.

"Hannover is international. The electricity supply companies, our potential customers, and component manufacturers are all here," said Enercon's owner, Aloys Wobben. Andreas Eichler of Vestas Deutschland was of the same mind. "Hannover is an established trade fair for companies from across the board of the energy sector. Visitors travel in from all around the world. Our component manufacturers are here as well as companies like RWE who are our future customers." Others were not only keen to cement existing relations, but also to seek new business. "We do detailed work that large companies cannot economically tackle. The German market is limited. We want to make foreign contacts," said Markus Bierod of ProVento, a wind developer.

Where to next?

With half the major wind turbine suppliers choosing to stay away from the Hannover fair, industry speculation is that these companies are perhaps saving their efforts for the new Wind Energy International Trade Fair, to be held next month in the German city of Hamburg. Sentiments are divided, however, on when to exhibit where in the wind business. ABB, Vestas, Enercon, Pfleiderer, Fuhrländer and wind development companies GHF and Provento all said they would not go to Hamburg, while an even larger number of companies said they would be going.

Although wind power has in the past had a tendency to get lost among the thousands of big name exhibitors in Hamburg, energy is gathered in three halls, with renewable energy -- wind and solar and more perversely hydrogen and fuel cells (not renewable) -- grouped together. A "Wind Energy Center" provided a platform for products and processes relating to all aspects of wind energy.

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