German trade fair bigger than ever

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With far more visitors and exhibitors than any other wind power exhibition, Germany's annual Husum WindEnergie trade fair continues to attract a vast number of grassroots industry members with a particular focus on operating and maintaining wind turbines, but this year some of Europe's major utilities made their presence felt too

Record figures for both exhibitors and visitors at Germany's traditional wind energy trade fair in Husum last month demonstrated just how many new players are being drawn into the rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar wind power industry -- and at both ends of the size scale. In all, around 750 companies and institutions from 35 countries presented products and services at Husum WindEnergie, which attracted 23,000 visitors from 40 countries, five thousand more than last year, reports event organiser Husum Messe. In addition, 8000 exhibitor personnel reportedly swelled the throng.

Among giants putting in a first time appearance were two German utility companies that have long shunned their domestic wind power market, E.ON and RWE. They were represented by their respective new renewables divisions, E.ON Climate & Renewables and RWE Innogy.

Until this year, the Husum WindEnergie Trade Fair, like most wind power exhibitions, has been dominated by the industry's main wind turbine manufacturers. But last month they were eclipsed at Husum by hundreds of specialised equipment suppliers who had their sights set on wind farm developers and operators as much as turbine builders. Hanno Fecke from Husum Messe, who intends to cap exhibitors at 1000 should the growth continue, described the increase as "massive."

Whether the surge will reduce bottlenecks in component supply, a main theme of the fair, remains to be seen. According to German supply-chain management specialist Pleyma, it will take time to build up production capacity. The specialised nature of the business works against rapid expansion in the short term, according to the company's Jan Scholl. Other themes of the fair were offshore wind, repowering of old turbines with new in Germany, and shortages of skilled staff, Fecke says. Among the exhibitors were 50 supplying wind turbines. Nine produce small turbines in the 10-50 kW range, seven make turbines in the 50-500 kW range and 34 make utility scale turbines with rated capacities of 500 kW to 5 MW. Of the many suppliers of major components, around 23 were generator suppliers, 25 supplied cable ducts, 19 were in the power electronics business, 31 in controls techniques and a colossal 49 were offering gearbox parts and bearings. Some of the companies appeared in more than one sector. Somewhat surprisingly, given the limited number of active suppliers of blades to the industry, 29 companies were listed as being from the rotor blade sector.

Another strong growth area is the service and maintenance sector. Nearly 50 companies exhibiting at Husum offered condition monitoring of wind turbine parts, around 24 provided inspection services, and nearly 40 were involved in repairs, with another 35 in servicing, including some double counting. Advice and consultancy was available from about 100 companies.

But just 11 banks, and 16 energy producers, with only a third among them being major names, were listed as exhibitors. Many others, however, spoke at seminars and conferences. From the finance community, Hauke Lübben of Warburg Pincus, which recently bought the Powerwind turbine technology from Germany's Conergy, was satisfied with the turnout. "Everybody is here. You can get a feel for the industry as the turbines builders, components suppliers, banks and financiers and so on are all present -- it's one stop shopping," he said.

Husum WindEnergie is unusual in being held mainly under canvas and in a small seaside town off the beaten track. Despite the logistical transport problems the countryside venue creates, the organisers point to the successful display of Powerwind's 45 tonne nacelle as one of the heaviest steel structures and metal components at the fair. Among other suppliers of heavyweight hardware, gearbox and drive train components were displayed by Finland's Moventas, GE Transportation and gearbox firm Winergy, owned by Siemens. Innovative Windpower, set up in 2006 by Dubai-based Innovative Energy Group, showed its 20 tonne integrated tubular gear system, part of its new Falcon 1.25 MW turbine, says Messe Husum, adding that cast iron hubs were a focus of attention at the stands of the Spanish Sankana, AH Industries of Denmark and Jianying of China.

To the disappointment of trade fair visitors fascinated by the technology, many companies chose not to display, put off not only by expensive transport and logistics but also by fear of technology being illegally copied. Repower Systems, part of the Suzlon group, chose to display no more than a full scale replica of the machine house of its new 3.3 MW machine. Vestas' point of attraction was an electrically powered Tesla sports car, sparking a vision in which wind power drives individual mobility.

Husum Messe and its partner this year, Hamburg Messe, agree that the big hardware was largely absent. Nonetheless, the event was used by GE, Vensys, Nordex and Fuhrländer to promote their 2.5 MW class turbines, Repower its new 3.3 MW turbine, and Alstom-Ecotècnia its 3 MW machine. From the Netherlands, Emergya Wind Technology, whose direct drive technology (without the intermediary of a gearbox) is based on former Dutch Lagerwey's technology, was present to promote its 900 kW turbine. Its Chinese joint venture, Beijing EWT-CASC Direct Wind, aims to install over 1000 MW of EWT capacity in China over the next five years based on the current EWT portfolio of 750 kW and 900 kW turbines, as well as a 2 MW turbine that is being developed and should become available in 2010.

At the other end of the spectrum, Germany's all dominant utility scale wind turbine supplier, Enercon, was once again persuading visitors of the virtues of its small, direct-drive 30 kW, stall controlled prototype with aluminium blades, while Step Energy Systems of Austria was touting a 15 kW machine costing EUR 40,000 and said it would bring a 40 kW prototype to the market in 2009.

Quality not quantity

In 2007, Husum Messe, in its tenth year, hosted 620 exhibitors from 30 countries. The growth this year suggest the event may have reached its physical limits. "In future we will be concentrating more on quality than quantity," says Fecke, who wants to see the event become more international. New infrastructure is to be developed, including a permanent congress and exhibition hall. The small town of Husum has been torn between the increasing demands of the international wind industry and the need to justify an investment required for a major event that, as a rule, takes place only every two years.

A congress centre would allow expansion of the seminars run throughout the event, in which 150 speakers reached an audience of 3000 with presentations on topics from market development to innovations and new project financing opportunities. A forum on the first day examined how wind power can boost local economies. It was organised by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) with support from the United Nations Environment Program. The last day was dedicated to a job fair and attracted over 3500 visitors from Germany and northern and eastern Europe keen to work in the sector.

Underlining the economic significance that wind energy has attained in Germany, the Husum fair was opened this year by federal economics minister Michael Glos, as well as Peter Harry Carstensen, premier of Schleswig-Holstein, the German state in which the small port of Husum is located. Although Glos took the role of patron of the wind event, with his strong pro-nuclear inclinations he made it clear he is not a supporter of wind power in his home state of Bavaria. Glos claimed that using wind energy in Bavaria was as inappropriate as using hydro power in northern Schleswig-Holstein, where there are no rivers. Several of those present speculated that his appearance had more to do with the Bavaria state election on September 28 than any deep-seated support for wind energy and environmental issues.

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