Big appetites seek new meals abroad

The Spanish wind market is reaching its peak and it would have been no surprise if the industry's main trade fair had been a quiet affair, but exhibitor booths at PowerExpo in Zaragoza were buzzing with industry news of overseas contracts and foreign factory inaugurations

With over 11 GW of Spain's wind target for 21 GW by 2010 already achieved and most of the 10 GW remaining carved up and allocated to project developers, the country's wind industry fat cats have shifted their appetites to booming markets abroad. Displays of multi-megawatt technology and news of global expansion plans dominated September's PowerExpo Sustainable Energy event in Zaragoza, held every other year, with hi-tech designer stands buzzing with news of recent contracts and factory inaugurations in China and the US, together with presentations of bigger and better machines to come.

"Spain's domestic market is becoming less attractive for the country's wind industry. Strategic sights are now set on emerging markets abroad," said Raimon Argemi of the country's top utility, Endesa. Speaking at a seminar, The Challenge of Global Expansion, organised by Spain's national wind association, Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE), Argemi pinpointed China, the US, India and the rest of Europe as main targets. On the exhibition floor it was clear others felt the same.

The exhibition covered nearly 22,000 square metres across three pavilions housing 439 exhibits, a 110% increase on 2004. More than half the exhibitors were from overseas. PowerExpo attracted over 10,500 visitors, 30% up on 2004. The bulk of occupied space was split equally between the wind and solar power industries, both offering technology and services.

With the notable exception of Nordex and Enercon, both from Germany and both with footholds in Spain, the industry's leading manufacturers all exhibited. Most of those with factories already operating in Spain put their latest nacelle colossus on display, with Gamesa, Acciona, Vestas and MTorres exhibiting machines ranging in rated capacity from 1.5-3 MW. The exceptions were GE Energy and Siemens, with no hardware on show despite local Spanish wind turbine assembly plants, and Ecotècnia, which only had the huge cast iron hub of its new 3 MW ready for public viewing rather than an entire nacelle.

While some insisted they have no plans to abandon the Spanish market, Enercon's absence was said by the rumour mill to be evidence of Spain's reducing appeal. Having just won a 1000 MW order for wind plant in Portugal (page 43), Enercon cancelled its stand at the last minute. Industry observers are speculating that the company will abandon its plans to open any turbine assembly facilities in Spain -- it had earmarked locations in Valencia and Galicia -- and instead build factories in Portugal. Enercon refused to comment on its no-show, as did Nordex.

The big boys abroad

Back on the exhibition floor, Spain's leading companies were keen to highlight their strong response to surging global demand. On the back of new facilities in US and China, Gamesa Eólica, Spain's dominant turbine manufacturer, announced its aim to increase its global market share from today's 13% to 18-20% by 2008. The company displayed the nacelle of its 2 MW turbine, now being produced in Pennsylvania along with carbon fibre blades, hubs, and towers. It also presented long-awaited details of a new 4.5 MW machine currently under development and due for launch in 2008.

Gamesa also made much of a 511 MW contract for supply of its 850 kW machine in China, flagging it as China's largest single wind turbine contract to date. The turbines are to be supplied from Gamesa's new Huayuan facility in Tianjin province. Moreover, just days after PowerExpo, Gamesa's wind project development arm, Gamesa Energía, confirmed a 250 MW concession in Shandong province (page 27). Hardly had the Chinese news been absorbed when the company announced a huge framework contract with utility Iberdrola to supply 2700 MW of turbines and 1000 MW of completed wind plant to fulfil the utility's ambitious wind power plans at home and abroad.

Gamesa rival Acciona used PowerExpo to launch its turbine manufacturing division, Acciona Windpower, as a global market competitor. Like Gamesa, the Spanish construction giant is both a wind turbine manufacturer and project developer and has built over 4000 MW of wind projects, either for third parties or under its own initiative. So far, the Acciona 1.5 MW turbine has only been used in Acciona's own projects, but as was made clear in Zaragoza, the turbine is now available to other developers. A revamped version of the 1.5 MW nacelle, with a new aerodynamic shell focussed on aesthetics and designed by Spanish sculptor Faustino Aizkorbe, was launched at PowerExpo.

Acciona also announced development of a 3 MW machine, with a rotor span range of 100-116 metres. The first prototype will go up in February, with series production kicking in after summer 2008. The company now has a factory in Nantong, China, recently inaugurated, with capacity to produce 400 machines a year, in addition to two factories in Spain with a combined annual capacity of 720 machines. It also plans to build a US facility next year, with a 400 unit capacity and is considering a facility of the same size for Inner Mongolia, China, said Acciona's Jose Luis Mataix.

Not to be left out

For Ecotècnia, exports are already a main feature of its business, with 40% of sales going to customers abroad by the end of the year, said Jose Maria Camera, mostly going to Portugal, France, Italy and Japan. It hopes to increase exports to 50% in 2007. The company is expanding its turbine range in response. A prototype of its 3 MW is to go up in Catalonia in the spring, with series production expected by the second half of 2008. The company also announced ongoing assembly of its 2 MW machine, in preparation for pre-series production in 2007.

MTorres displayed its 1.6 MW synchronous direct drive turbine. While its facility in Burgos is still only supplying orders for MTorres showcase wind farms, the company hopes to pick up new customers on the back of the global shortage of wind turbines. It stresses the quality of generation from direct-drive synchronous technology. As part of its PowerExpo exhibition presence, MTorres received both a Germanischer Lloyd type-certificate for its machine plus Spain's LCOE standard, certifying that the turbine can ride through sporadic voltage drops on the grid, increasingly a requirement made by transmission operators both at home and abroad.

Next door, Spain's Eozen, currently building a factory in Andalucía for direct drive synchronous 1.2 MW and 1.5 MW turbines under license from Germany's Vensys, was holding out similar hopes to those of MTorres. The Eozen stand buzzed with news of a 50 MW contract for Vensys-licensed technology for the Beijing Olympic Games (page xx).

Vestas' faith in Spain

The only wind turbine manufacturer notably plugging its aims for the Spanish market was Vestas of Denmark, which showed off a 3 MW nacelle. Having secured deals for at least 382 MW in Spain since March, the company's faith in the Spanish market is underlined by its recently inaugurated turbine plant in Burgos province (Windpower Monthly, September 2006).

With the new production capacity of 600 MW a year, Vestas was the only turbine major at PowerExpo to confirm that it had some free production capacity for orders in 2007. Indeed, Enrique Alvarez of Spanish developer Northeolic was on the Vestas stand "to iron out the fine details of an imminent contract" for Vestas 2 MW machines for the 44 MW Tineo project in the region of Asturias, he said.

GE Energy's Antonio Casla, meanwhile, refuted rumours arising from a lack of orders over the past 12 months that the company is set to abandon Spain. While acknowledging the group's focus on the US, where GE has cornered 60% of the turbine market, he said Spain, China and Germany remained key GE markets for wind turbines. The company's Spanish wind turbine assembly plant at Noblejas is to be upgraded to produce the GE 2.5 MW synchronous machine and will serve the entire Mediterranean region, he said. Noblejas has already turned out 1000 MW of 1.5 MW machines. Casla confirmed recent letters of intent to supply 14 machines to Portuguese developer Enersis and he expects another contract soon for Burgos, Spain.

Not worried

The focus on overseas markets at PowerExpo left little time for worries over the current political mess which the domestic market finds itself in (Windpower Monthly, September 2006). In response to soaring electricity market prices pushing up payments made for wind power, the government has put the whole sector in limbo by repealing the legal basis for setting the size of the wind power production incentive.

A cut in wind power purchase prices from January is expected when new rules for wind development take effect. Juan Tesón Palacios of Spain's third utility, Union Fenosa, said project activity in Spain is currently frenetic, with developers trying to push through as many projects as possible before the all-change to power purchase prices in January. Nonetheless, Spain's utility and big corporation main players are confident they can ride out all but the worst scenarios currently being projected.

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