In splendid new exhibition halls in Hamburg, the world wind industry gathered for four days last month to do business, gloat over the booming global market, bemoan the shortage of components, get a feel for future markets, hunt for new staff, renew old acquaintances and catch up with the latest industry gossip.
They had plenty of space to do it in. Although the WindEnergy Trade Fair claimed a relatively high number of exhibitors for a wind event -- with only the Husum fair further north in Germany claiming more -- there was a discomforting feeling that exhibits were fewer than had been planned for. With many square metres of bare carpet around the stands, the usual bustling atmosphere of a wind industry fair was missing.
According to the organisers, the 330 companies represented at the Hamburg fair received 10,000 visitors over four days. The figures are identical with those issued for the last WindEnergy event in 2004, though this year the 2004 visitor figure was put at 8000. That was an error, says chief organiser Peter Bergleiter. Visitors numbered 10,000 in both 2004 and 2006, he says. The important difference, he adds, is that this year visitors hailed from 70-80 countries compared with just 54 countries two years ago. The geographical spread of exhibitors was also wider this year, according to trade fair company Hamburg Messe and Congress, encompassing 26 countries, compared with 18 last time.
The world's largest and third largest wind turbine suppliers, Danish Vestas and Germany's Enercon, once again shunned the Hamburg event, along with smaller German manufacturer Fuhrländer. All three had mounted major exhibits at the huge Hanover fair, a broad industry event with energy as a major theme, held the previous month further south in Germany (page 72). But as one wit put it: "Two-thirds of German wind turbine supply was represented at Hannover by Vestas and Enercon, while the remaining third turned up at Hamburg."
Noticeably absent, too, were energy and electricity transmission network companies and most of the major components suppliers. Only German energy giant Vattenfall Europe underlined its commitment to wind energy, albeit only for offshore developments, as sponsor of the event. The wind industry's gear box makers were among those which elected to exhibit at Hannover, not Hamburg.
Although billed as the "premier event" of the global wind industry, the Hamburg Trade Fair again had a hard time attracting high profile politicians and thus broad media attention. Astrid Klug, parliamentary state secretary at the German environment ministry, did the honours at the opening, deputising for Sigmar Gabriel, federal environment minister, who cancelled at short notice.
Unperturbed, Dietmar Aulich, managing director of Hamburg Messe and Congress, stressed the growing wind energy sector's "need for a specialist wind trade fair" where wind energy professionals get together. The Hamburg event is the largest wind energy event in the world, he expounds, with exhibitors filling 23,000 square metres. Half the exhibitors and about 30% of visitors were from outside Germany. The United States, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Spain and Sweden all presented national pavilions, the British with 24 companies. Wind associations from the US, Britain, Canada, China, India and Japan all supported the trade fair, with the European Wind Energy Association as the official "co-operation partner."
Visitors from Asia were clearly visible, such as the contingent from the Taiwan Wind Turbine Alliance (TWTIA), with many demonstrating in their eager questions that the Hamburg event was their closest brush with wind energy yet. Nearly all were seeking a road into the wind industry and partnerships with established players. They welcomed the broad cross-section of wind industry activities represented on the exhibition floor. The TWTIA came to Hamburg expressly to find international partners to help the country achieve its goal of about 2160 MW of wind installations by 2012.
Who was there
Representing the heavyweight end of the wind industry were turbines suppliers Clipper and GE Energy from the US, Spain's Gamesa Eólica, and Nordex, Repower Systems and Siemens Wind Power from the host country. GE Wind displayed the nacelle of its a 2.3 MW turbine, Repower Systems that of its 2 MW machine, and Siemens the nacelle of its 2.3 MW unit. Newcomer EU Energy from Britain, recently bought by American company Composite Technology Corporation in a shares-swap deal, heralded a market re-entry of German DeWind turbines (though without a nacelle) and newcomer Vensys Energiesysteme was keen to spread the word on its 1.2 MW and 1.5 MW prototypes with its Spanish partner, project developer Eozen. Eozen, which has acquired licences to produce the two Vensys turbine types, took a neighbouring stand.
Several manufacturers of small and micro turbines, like the Polish Enwia and the British Iskra, also decided Hamburg was a must for them, although the small turbine section of the exhibition did not appear as well visited as the main attractions.
Although gearbox and generators were not high profile, a diverse range of equipment suppliers were present, including names like brake manufacturer Bubenzer Bremsen, foundry company Main Metall Giesserei Fritz Schorr, French bearing manufacturer Rollix-Defontaine and the British BGB Engineering, supplying, amongst other products, slip ring solutions for turbines.
Increasing numbers of service, maintenance and condition monitoring companies are floating to the surface in the wake of the booming wind market, but mostly German companies showed up in Hamburg. Similarly, most of the wind project developers present, including Enersys, Enertrag, Renergys, Voltwerk, WKN and WPD, are based in Germany, one exception being Green Energy from Bucharest. The company drew attention to its plans to install a 20 MW wind station in Romania before the end of the year, boosting by many times the existing 1.4 MW of wind generation in the country.
Companies offering finance and insurance were thin on the ground, numbering only a few stalwarts like KfW Bank group, Commerzbank, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Marsh. Their chance to shine was provided at a free finance and insurance forum, one of several similar events staged during the week on specialist topics and all held in open presentation areas. The same format was employed for a designated exhibitors' forum, which offered a platform for the presentation of products and services, and a national forum area for verbal information on market structures and commercial realities in a range of countries. Attendance at all the forums varied from just a handful of people to a crowd of over a hundred at the offshore session.
With unemployment a political hot potato in Germany, the last day of the fair was devoted to giving students, trainees, apprentices, other jobseekers and teachers a chance to meet with the international industry. The national wind sector, including component suppliers, employs some 64,000 people with another 20,000 expected to join the ranks over the next ten years as the offshore market gets underway. "Fortunately our branch is still considered sexy amongst the young people," remarked Norbert Giese, managing director of Siemens Wind Power Deutschland and chairman of the wind energy division at VDMA, the German engineering federation Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbauer.
One of the satisfied exhibitors at Hamburg appeared to be recruitment company Mercuri Urval, commissioned by Indian turbine builder Suzlon Energy to find around 100 new staff for posts in Germany. Senior consultant Thomas Streveld said there was plenty of interest in what he had to offer.