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Into America with variable speed -- Lagerwey challenges patent

The installation of a second prototype turbine in as many months signals another departure from its tried and tested track for Dutch wind turbine maker Lagerwey the Windmaster. After beginning tests on the 2 MW Zephyros LW 72 offshore turbine last month, Lagerwey has turned its attention to a model for inland, low wind speed use with the construction of a new 750 kW turbine, the LW 58.

Installed at the end of May near Criel on the Noordoost Polder in the province of Flevoland, the LW 58 refines Lagerwey's LW 52, 750 kW design for use on low wind speed sites. Some 200 of the LW 52 have been sold worldwide. The LW 58 differs in having a larger rotor -- 58 metres -- which brings a 27% increase in swept area, enough to be unique in the 750 kW class, its makers claim.

"Basically it's a very extreme inland turbine," says Lagerwey's Remco Boersma, "It's more extreme than any of our competitors' inland models." Because of its low wind capabilities, Boersma believes the "typically European" turbine is hedged against the political and financial risks of low wind speed site development, giving it a broad market appeal. In particular Lagerwey is looking at areas such as the eastern provinces of the Netherlands and regions with comparable wind regimes in France, Spain and Canada. For longer term growth, however, Lagerwey is looking beyond inland European to North America.

Canada construction

Indeed, the installation in Canada of a 750 kW LW 52 after the summer will mark the Barneveld-based concern's entry into the North American market. The machine will use unmodified variable speed technology -- not a version of a European turbine modified for the US market -- becoming one of the first variable speed turbines from Europe to be taken into North America. A variable speed patent, originally taken out by Kenetech and which prevented the import of German Enercon turbines for a major wind farm at Big Spring in Texas in 1995, is now held by GE Wind following its recent takeover of Enron Wind. Enron acquired the patent through Zond, which retrieved it from the break-up of Kenetech.

Whereas other European manufacturers such as Vestas have chosen to develop versions of their European turbines "optimised for the North American market" to minimise potential patent conflicts, Lagerwey foresees no problems in using its own long-established variable speed system: "It's a point of attention, but I am confident we can live with it," says Boersma.

The Canadian 750 kW machine going up in Toronto is likely to be the first of many in both Canada and the US, says Boersma. "We've got letters of intent or memorandums of understanding for a number of small, medium and large scale projects in North America." Apart from the favourable market conditions the great advantage of the North American market is the relatively easy passage from contract to construction, he says. "When it comes to permitting, land-lease, availability of sites and grid capacity, the hurdles are somewhat less than in northwest Europe."

As a virtual producer with no own-manufacturing capacity, Lagerwey is not looking to establish a major North American production facility. Rather it intends to follow the formula it has employed in the Asian markets of working with local producers.

Series production

Boersma recognises, however, that the days of managing Lagerwey's North American affairs from Holland are numbered. "Eventually we will need a bigger sales and service infrastructure and that could come sooner rather than later. If the pipeline projects materialise, that will automatically justify an infrastructure, and that could be the end of this year."

The LW 58 has been built to generate some 1900 MWh a year at a wind speed of 6 m/s ,which is some 10-15% more than the output of the LW 52 at the same wind speed. At the maximum site mean wind speed for which the LW 58 is designed, 7.5 m/s, output rises to some 2700 MWh a year. Series production is scheduled to begin at the end of the year after testing is complete in the autumn when "a few conditional orders will kick in automatically," says Boersma.

The LW 58 also features a newly designed nacelle with a compact ring generator that is just 3.8 metres in diameter. Designed by Lagerwey in conjunction with the Technical University Delft, the small size of the air-cooled generator will make transport easier in urban environments and areas with poor transport infrastructure, say the designers.

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