Blade producer remains confident about Spain

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For most industries, closing a factory for two months due to lack of orders might be a symptom of crisis. Even worse if closure comes hot on the heels of a costly facility extension, as happened with blade manufacturer LM's Spanish division. But there is no crisis, says Melchor Ruiz, director of LM Spain.

Following the shut down of activity at the company's Ponferrade blade facility in Castile and León region in April and May, he says: "We are now working at greater capacity than ever before and on line to meet our objective for year-end 2003."

In such a dynamic market as wind -- especially in Spain -- peaks and troughs are normal, if undesirable, says Ruiz. The same thing happens in other dynamic sectors, "like in the car industry," he adds. Since the wind sector got off the ground in Spain in the mid 1990s, there has been an annual building pattern of around 40% in the first half and 60% in the second half of the year. "This year things were a little out of synch, with a very slow start," says Ruiz. "If orders dry up, we have to stop production. A blade manufacturer cannot stockpile in such a fast evolving technological industry."

LM estimates new capacity in Spain for the first half of the year at 230 MW. Market forecasts in January had estimated new capacity for the whole year at around 1000 MW, but Ruiz says Spain is now headed for 1200-1300 MW for 2003.

LM Spain puts the slow pace at the beginning of the year down to administrative and grid bottlenecks in various regions. The bottlenecks are now freeing in Castile and León and Galicia, while La Rioja is moving fast. LM has clients in all three regions. Aragón is also providing steady customers while Castile-La Mancha is on slow drip, with the pressure building up for massive development some time over the next six months.

Ruiz dismisses rumours that commercial trends have influenced LM sales. The decision of Danish manufacturer Bonus to make its own blade has not affected Izar, its Spanish partner. "Izar is sticking with us," says Ruiz. Other customers for blades from LM's three facilities in Spain are NEG Micon, GE Wind, Ecotècnia, Nordex, Repower, Lagerwey and Made, among others. Recently, Made was sold to Spain's dominant turbine manufacturer, Gamesa Eólica, which makes its own blades. Ruiz points out that Made machines are still going up. He doubts whether Gamesa will create special facilities to make blades for them.

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