Coming of age with style in Hannover

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The world's largest annual industry trade fair was witness this year to an impressive change in the status and image of the wind energy sector. Concentrated in Hall 13 of Germany's prestigious Hannover exhibition centre, wind turbine companies were no longer clustered together in a protected wind ghetto, but spread out among other renewable and non-renewable energy companies. What is more, the wind industry's professional and inspired presentation of its products put many a veteran power company to shame.

Wind's presence was also much broader that just turbine companies alone. In a hefty catalogue of the 7500 companies exhibiting at the 51st Hannover Trade Fair, held April 20-25, more than 30 categories of wind related products were listed. Wind turbine component suppliers were out in force, with over 40 companies touting products in several of the 27 exhibition halls.

Oddly, several wind turbine manufacturers, including the two largest, NEG Micon and Vestas, were not included in the wind energy section of the main fair catalogue, making it hard for visitors new to the wind scene to gain a proper overview. Indeed just five wind turbine manufacturers were listed in this section: Enercon, Südwind, and AN Windenergie of Germany, Danish Wincon, and the Enron/Tacke/Zond stand. The remaining wind turbine manufacturers present were only visible in the catalogue in the broad listing of all exhibitors.

In the exhibition hall, however, the wind energy stands were not hard to spot. Energy giant Enron, in particular, made a splash with its stand, apparently keen to advertise its new wind turbine subsidiaries, Tacke Windenergie in Germany and Zond in California. In a break from the traditional sober and technical approach, an impressive sandstone backdrop and atmospheric lighting created an exotic, adventure park image against which the major components of both the Tacke 600a and the Zond 750 kW machines were on display.

NEG Micon and Vestas, also in Hall 13, were present with more traditionally styled stands that were nonetheless professionally displayed with NM 1000/60 and V47-660/200 kW nacelles respectively. Vestas, however, was dissatisfied that it had been given ten fewer square metres than the 96 it had applied for, admitted the company's Annett Richly. The stand did appear cramped.

Eclipsed by Titanic

On its home ground, Enercon, Germany's largest turbine manufacturer, was somewhat overshadowed by its competitors with a split level stand that appeared modestly quaint beside its neighbours. The vast and dominating presence on the opposite side of the aisle of Enercon's co-operation partner, Germany's second largest utility Preussenelektra, all but eclipsed the wind company. Yet there was something reminiscent of the Titanic about the royal blue "hull" of the Preussenelektra stand which sucked visitors into a dark and shadowy interior to be mesmerised by a five minute multivisual show. Here the public was wooed by stunning nature images, far removed from the everyday reality of the utility's generating base of mainly nuclear power and coal. Preussenelektra, it seems, is ignoring the fact that renewables are today's fastest growing energy technology.

Back among the wind companies, AN Windenergie, manufacturer in Germany of Bonus turbines, had a brand new image for the Hannover fair, with cut outs of machine components suspended in mid air. Visitors were directed to squint through a keyhole in order to see how the components miraculously formed a harmonious whole when put together by the company. While an interesting opening gambit for a technical discussion, encouraging visitors to become keyhole voyeurs did not seem to be the best means of illustrating the company's motto that "the whole is more than the sum of the parts."

Moving outside Hall 13, Südwind was tucked between Halls 11 and 12, displaying an S46 nacelle adjacent to its small information marquee. A steady stream of visitors spilled out of the entrances of the two halls to queue at the steps of the nacelle. Small Germany wind company Fuhrländer also displayed a nacelle on the windy promenade in front of Hall 11, again a well-visited display.

King for a fair

Within Hall 1l, Nordex Balcke-Dürr reigned supreme on the massive BDAG stand of its mother company. With no other wind companies nearby, the way was free for Nordex to lure over stray visitors from the stands of the giants of the power station world, such as Siemens and ABB. Although BDAG has six divisions making up its "decentral energy" activities, pride of place was given to wind energy, with a 1.3 MW Nordex nacelle beautifully displayed in a sunken well. Visitors could peer through windows in the nacelle to catch glimpses of components bathed in subtle lighting.

The wind energy exhibitors were generally happy with the number of visitors and their level of interest. "We've had a lot of people on our stand, and an unexpectedly large number of foreign visitors," reported Anne Euhus of NEG Micon, a view echoed by Gaby Braun of Tacke. "Lots of activity with the brochures going like hot cakes," commented Eric Nielsen from Wincon, which had a 600 kW nacelle on display. "We are well satisfied," said Norbert Giese of AN Windenergie. With the basic price for a stand, without additional services, at around DEM 300 a square metre, the smaller wind companies were especially keen to get value for money. Despite the high costs, they generally seemed happy about being part of Hannover's industrial window to the world.

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