Businesslike and commercial and with a number of exhibitors not seen at a wind event before, the first Wind Energy International Trade Fair, held at the huge and well established indoor Hamburg expo facilities in northern Germany, is set to become a regular event. The four day show, held June 18-21, is to be repeated in 2004. This year's fair drew 240 exhibitors from 16 countries and ten thousand trade visitors.
The strong presence of component suppliers meant that professional engineering was the dominant theme of WindEnergy 2002. In Germany alone, 16,000 are employed in wind energy's component supply industry, compared with 3780 in wind turbine manufacture. As Martin Molzen of LM Glasfiber commented, "Before it used to be wind turbine manufacturers, gear boxes and a blade supplier. Now it's everything from bolts to cranes." He might also have added everything from tower paint, oil filters and roller bearings, to huge iron castings for hubs, not to mention a steel company or two. "The quality of visitor is good. They're beginning to take their buyers with them, so that means that here we have talked to the people we normally talk to, those we need to deal with. There are more people from the value chain," added Molzen.
Electrical engineering was one of the largest categories of suppliers, followed by gear boxes and generators. Exhibitors ranged from divisions of the very big, such as Siemens, SKF, and Alstom, right down to family owned specialist firms. The periphery included an expert in materials recycling, a supplier of antennae for mobile communications, and a company offering on-the-spot massage for the wind-weary.
Indeed, wind turbine manufacturers, with ten of the major companies exhibiting, made up one of the smallest categories, albeit they had by far the biggest stands and thus dominated the event. Nacelles on show included REpower's new 2 MW turbine, DeWind's new 2 MW model, NEG Micon's new 950 kW unit and the Bonus 1.3 MW from AN Windenergie. For sheer amount of space taken, NEG Micon, also promoting its new 2.75 MW, topped the list with 324 square metres, followed by GE Wind Energy, Nordex, AN Windenergie (which markets Bonus turbines in Germany) and REpower Systems. The Danish domination of the wind turbine making side of the industry is waning. Two Danish turbine makers (including Bonus) were present, while Spain provided four of the 11, Germany was represented by two, Britain by one (now that DeWind is in British hands), and France and the United States by one apiece in the form of Jeumont and GE Wind.
Having just installed its 3.6 MW prototype in northern Spain, GE Wind Energy was massively promoting the machine, intended as its offshore flagship. The stand, complete with air conditioned offices in tunnels emanating from a central hub, was well stocked with an abundance of GE marketing material, belying the fact that the company had only been in the wind business for a matter of weeks. "Those who are here are qualified. All the big players in the game are here on the customer side. We are also meeting with our main suppliers," commented GE Wind's Andreas von Bobart.
Vying with wind turbine manufacturers to make the biggest splash with an imaginative stand was Winergy, the new name for the recently formed 100% wind industry subsidiary of Flender, a major gear box supplier. The presence most felt was that of Spain. The four turbine makers -- Gamesa, Made Endesa, Ecotècnia and M Torres -- had grouped with six Spanish component suppliers and the state renewables institute, IDAE, in an "España" pavilion which dominated its surroundings with the Spanish colours.
For Made it was the company's first presentation at an international trade fair. "We felt we had attained sufficient maturity to build up our exports and that is why we decided to come to Hamburg," stated Luis Mingues. Made reported visits from industry members in Japan, Italy, Mexico, Chile, Portugal and Sweden. Another of the companies present from outside the wind industry's north European centre was India's Suzlon. It reported having made a series of useful contacts, particularly with component suppliers. "We are also using the trade fair for recruiting people," reported the company's Vivek Taneja. Suzlon was exhibiting for the first time in Europe.
The word "international" was much heard among exhibitors. Wind turbine manufacturers in home markets with stagnation on the horizon -- particularly Spain and Germany -- are anxious to meet customers from abroad. Manuela Scheferling of German REpower Systems was unequivocal. "We're here because we want to get into the international market, into strong wind areas." She named Spain and Greece. "We need to go international because Germany is full up with turbines. We want to grow." Hamburg had provided "some quite good international contacts: Japan, China, India, Poland and Russia," she added. "There are so many markets out there."
The wide range of components suppliers told a similar story. Many had relatively recently entered wind power in their home markets to discover that the pickings to be had from the global wind industry are enormous in potential for early entrants.
The group of main wind industry members who took the initiative for the event -- led by NEG Micon, GE Wind (at the time Enron Wind), Nordex, DeWind, REpower and Bonus -- were particularly enthusiastic about its success, among them Ralf Peters of Nordex: "The fair has gone very well for us. We have a lot of verbal agreements promising intensive follow-up business." REpower Systems chairman, Fritz Vahrenholt, agreed. He pointed out that an internationally recognised trade fair location -- with all the transport and accommodation services such a location provides -- is not only appropriate but now "essential" for bringing the wind industry out of the periphery and into the main stream of the commercial power industry.
Not all were totally satisfied. José Aizpurua from TS Fundiciones SA, a steel castings company and part of the Spanish pavilion, commented: "This is smaller than we thought it would be. We would like it to be more international." Radka Zíková from Skoda steel agreed. "We expected more people and more visitors." At the other end of same hall, however, David Steele from British engineering company James Walker, a specialist bolt supplier, was of the opposite opinion. "It was bigger and better than we expected. We were impressed by the number of big companies present."
The 10,000 visitors were less than the organisers had expected. Expectations of 15,000-20,000 had been expressed. But they found themselves fighting the unavoidable throughout the four days. A heat wave made the three exhibition halls unbearably hot on the first day. A strike by French air traffic controllers on the second day kept more visitors away, while a general strike in Spain had the same effect on the Thursday. Friday was dominated by football. With England playing Brazil in the World Cup and Germany playing USA, a wind exhibition lost its appeal. Even those who had travelled to Hamburg stopped in their tracks to gather around giant screens and cheer their team. After the German victory, business turned to beer and most exhibitors accepted the inevitable and joined in.
Hamburg, Husum, Hannover
Comparisons with Germany's two long established wind exhibitions -- the Husum and Hannover fairs -- were inevitable. Many expressed delight that unlike at Hannover (Windpower Monthly, June 2002), Hamburg is a wind-only event, instead of just a part of a huge technology expo. Feelings were mixed about Husum. While all were pleased not to be struggling with the lack of infrastructure and poor facilities for which the small town of Husum is renown in the wind industry, a few said they missed the Husum crowds, while Scheferling wistfully regretted the informal "family" atmosphere. On the other hand, nearly all said three events was two too many and Hamburg was the preferred choice for rolling them into one. "This is the important business event," said Andreas Wagner from GE Wind. "It is more international than Husum," added GE Wind's Von Bobart. Some suggested Husum could be downscaled as a German-only event to keep the tradition going. At least some component suppliers agreed. "Everybody is talking about how they hope it will be Hamburg from now on," said Ernst Boye Nielsen from Desitek, main suppliers of lighting protection devices.
The absence in Hamburg of the world's two largest wind turbine suppliers, Vestas of Denmark and Germany's Enercon, was a strange anomaly -- and an irritant to those who had expected to be exhibiting alongside their best customers. "All the main ones were in Husum, but here Vestas and Enercon are not. I don't understand it," said Jitka Matuchová of Skoda Steel of the Czech Republic, steel supplier to the wind industry. Political reasons seem to be behind the decision byf the big two to stay away.
For Vestas, with its German facilities in Husum, fear of being seen to support a rival event -- which will inevitably cut or destroy the small town's income from its much beloved wind fair -- no doubt played a role in the decision not to attend. For Enercon the problem was again one of rival events. It has gone out on a limb to support an "alternative" event being held this month in Berlin by a break-away movement dissatisfied with the industry's support of wind power's commercialisation and departure from its roots as a "people's movement." Enercon, having exhibited massively at Hannover the month before Hamburg, while being one of two wind turbine exhibitors at the Berlin event and thus playing a major role, apparently found it prudent to skip Hamburg.
Despite the gaping holes left by the big two, Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH was delighted by the industry support of its first wind fair, particularly the 20% international content. "Satisfied? Yes, without any reservations," said managing director Dietmar Aulich. "On the visitor side we would like more." He is enthusiastic about prospects for 2004, when instead of eight months the company will have two years in which to market it.
Discussions are well underway for next time, including early talks for a potential co-operation with the European Wind Energy Association, the trade group representing all the main wind companies. Aside from making the event more international and attracting more visitors, boosting the public relations value of the fair is also high on the agenda.
REpower's Scheferling wants more energy devoted to marketing the event, not only within the wind engineering professions, but among the citizens of Europe. The wind industry needs to sell its virtues to maintain political support, she said. "We need to get in contact with the people." She suggested rounding off the fair with an open day for the public on the Saturday -- and with the industry planning family entertainment and wind happenings. WindEnergy 2002 project manager, Heiko Heiden, assured that ideas for attracting the public were already being hatched, if that is what the industry desires.