CAL Apparatebau in eastern Germany,owned by HW Urban Management in Berlin, has successfully changed from building pipes and pumps for oil and gas to building radio masts and wind turbine towers. The firm says wind turbine manufacturers will move away from concrete towers in favour of steel ones. The properties of steel are much better than those of concrete, it says.

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A former combine under the old east German regime is becoming one of the leading suppliers of steel towers to the wind industry. In its largest order to date, CAL Apparatebau of Leipzig has contracted to supply 60 towers for Enercon E-40 turbines in a deal worth around DEM 10 million. CAL already supplies to Vestas and Tacke and is talking to Dutch companies, too.

CAL started producing steel towers forturbines in 1991 after the company was taken over by HW Urban Management of Berlin. Before reunification of Germany, CAL was an industrial combine producing pipes for oil refining and gas pumping, mainly for export to former Soviet countries. After its privatisation, CAL switched products to wind turbine towers and radio masts and is now concentrating increasingly on the wind market. The company's growth has been startling. In 1993 it made 84 towers and expects to treble this to around 240 by the end of 1994. The market is bound to expand, according to CAL, as wind turbine manufacturers move away from concrete towers to steel for a number of reasons: greater stability, longer life (at least 20 years) optimal corrosion protection, simpler installation, environmental compatibility and the pleasing aesthetics of steel towers, says CAL managing director Klaus-Joachim Lehmann.

CAL is currently researching the characteristics required of steel towers for 1 MW machines. It is also looking at the practical limit to the size of such a tower, with the key dimension the diameter of the base. Road transport is possible up to a diameter of around 4.8 metres, it says. The company is looking into new designs to allow towers to be constructed in components which fit into containers to facilitate transport.

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