Blade maker files for bankruptcy protection -- Credit problems force Aerpac to suspend payments

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Dutch rotor blade manufacturer Aerpac BV has filed for bankruptcy protection. The request to suspend payments to Aerpac creditors was made on Aerpac's behalf by Daniels, a legal firm based in Rijssen, at the court in Almelo on Jan 12. Neither the receiver nor company directors, Henk Heerkes and Rob Roelofs, are willing to comment on the application.

Ongoing liquidity problems exacerbated by the failure of a major client to pay its debts are rumoured to be the immediate cause of the application, with management attempts to find an investor prepared to make a major capital injection reported to have foundered in the first week of January.

Ironically, Aerpac's long running liquidity problems are due largely to the rapid growth of the wind market, with the company having to find money to pre-fund increasingly large projects. The accelerated rate of turbine development has also cut the time available for prototype testing, increasing the risk of commercially damaging blade failures.

Nordex failures

Problems with the APX 60T blade sets for the 1.3 MW Nordex N60 over 1999 and 2000 appear to be a contributing factor to Aerpac's difficulties. Although the number of defective Aerpac blades on Nordex turbines is disputed, the failures, as reported in Windpower Monthly's sister publication, WindStats, clearly soured relations between Aerpac and Nordex owners, Borsig Energy GmbH. In September last year, Borsig turned to four specialist German companies for retrofitting the 70 Aerpac equipped N60 turbines. Cracks on both the leading and trailing edges of the blades have been a major problem.

The crisis follows a decade in which the company achieved spectacular growth on the back of the buoyant wind market. Founded in 1989 after a management buyout of the wind turbine division of large Dutch engineers, Ventilatoren Stork Howden, Aerpac became one of the world's leading blade manufacturers during the 1990s. In 1995 it opened a new production facility in Almelo, and in 1998 it doubled production capacity again with the addition of a NLG 6 million extension. At that time it held a 15% share of the world market for wind turbine rotor blades. Aerpac's strategy has been to localise production. It set up a joint venture in Spain, Aretusia, in 1995, opened a production line near Edinburgh in Scotland in 1996, and founded Aerpac UK with a staff of 130 in 1997. Aerpac's US blades are made by Merrifield Roberts in Rhode Island. The fate of these ventures and of the 370 jobs at Almelo is uncertain

Aerpac is owned by directors Roelofs and Heerkes, the Overijssele Participatie Maatschappij and one private investor.

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