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For the first time this decade the German wind market is showing signs of losing momentum. Just 28% of the country's top 20 wind turbine manufacturers are optimistic about the year ahead, reports Norbert Allnoch of Münster University. In past years his industry survey told a different story with 66% positive about the future in 1993 and 76% in 1995.

The ratio of incoming orders against outgoing invoices has weakened, a reliable sign that the market in 1996 will be quieter, Allnoch adds. Already wind turbine makers are intensifying their export activities to compensate for the slowing down of domestic sales. It seems clear already that 1996 exports will well exceed those in 1995, during which some 250 turbines have been sold, representing 100 MW of rated capacity.

The Allnoch survey has also exposed a deal of dissatisfaction among manufacturers over the manner in which the wind market is being steered. Although the 250 MW support programme and the Electricity Feed Law (EFL) successfully catalysed a market, both these devices are wearing thin. The support programme, introduced in 1989, has now more or less run its course and the EFL, which sets tariffs for renewables and obliges utilities to buy the power produced, is under heavy attack from the establishment. At the same time, ever more sophisticated planning requirements, particularly in coastal areas where wind energy has made its deepest inroads, are slowing orders.

According to Allnoch, a market for replacing existing wind turbines with new will not evolve until beyond the turn of the century. So having built up considerable production capacity to meet booming demand, manufacturers seem to be faced with an unwelcome lean period.

Allnoch believes a more differentiated payment system for wind generated electricity should be introduced to encourage the use of wind inland until the industry has reached the point where it is self-propelling. He also thinks it is high time a start was made to breaking down market barriers in the rest of Europe.

He warns that the industry has reached a crossroads -- either to pause for breath or to roll down the slippery slope of a shrinking market. Discussions about how Germany "as an industrial nation" is potentially endangered by the costs of the Electricity Feed Law seem dilettantic when compared with Japan's roof top photovoltaic programme with a budget of YEN 3.3 billion in 1995 alone, or India's plan for an 1800 MW renewables support programme.

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