German turbine gets old British blood -- Joint venture in England

A second established British power engineering company is moving into wind turbine production. Following on the heels of the FKI Group, Peter Brotherhood is also joining forces with a German wind turbine manufacturer. But while FKI's purchase of Dewind had all the makings of a rescue operation (page 46), Peter Brotherhood is linking with fast expanding Repower Systems in a joint venture that will first market and support Repower wind turbines throughout Britain before moving on to production of turbines at Peter Brotherhood's factory at Peterborough, in the east of England.

The new company is owned 67% by Repower and 33% by Peter Brotherhood, which manufactures steam turbines, gas compressors and combined heat and power plant. Peter Brotherhood's Steve Clarke claims the move into wind energy represents a natural development for the company and complements its existing skills.

Repower expects the first British built turbines to roll off the line at the end of 2004. But as Clarke explains: "The focus in the short term is to bring Repower's products to the market." Repower's Fritz Vahrenholt adds: "Peter Brotherhood is well known in the renewable energies sector and is familiar with the British market, making it the ideal partner for us." Repower's strategy is to expand in foreign markets with the help of close links with strong national partners. "The UK is an important new market for us," says Vahrenholt.

Fantastic opportunity

Clarke adds that UK government policy sets the scene of continued growth for renewables. "And the most deliverable renewable energy technology at the moment is wind." In the longer term, the government's second round of offshore wind development concessions "presents a fantastic opportunity" at a time when Repower's 5 MW turbine, currently in demonstration, is expected to be ready for the offshore market.

The joint venture has opened a regional sales office in Edinburgh to serve the Scottish market and says that discussions with several prospective customers are "at an advanced stage." The new company was launched at the Husum trade fair during a visit to the Repower stand by British energy minister Stephen Timms.

The Repower joint venture is not Peter Brotherhood's first foray into the wind business. In 1998, in a collaboration with Renewable Energy Systems (RES), it built a prototype 1 MW turbine which is today operating in Antrim, Northern Ireland. "That was a great initial project," says Clarke. But the manufacture of further turbines failed to materialise, due in part to the difficulties developers had at the time in gaining planning consents in Britain, he adds. After a protracted consents process, RES was refused permission for a site where it had intended to use the new turbine. Moreover, under the UK's previous renewables support arrangements, developers were not keen to use prototype technology, says Clarke. "It was clear to us we needed a partner with proven technology to gain significant market share," he says.