With five offshore wind plants of 150 MW each to be built in Danish waters over the next seven years, the domestic wind industry will for the first time be up against overseas competitors on its home turf. On the other hand, Danish component suppliers can perhaps look forward to securing major new customers. All the signs are that Denmark's monopoly on its home market is about to be relegated to the history books.
The threat is coming from, among others, American energy giant Enron. Together with its German subsidiary, Tacke, Enron has set up shop in the major town of Aalborg in northern Denmark. Tacke's managing director, Finn Hansen, is no stranger to the Danish market. He is the son of the founder of Vestas, Peder Hansen, and together with Birger Madsen he took the then agricultural machinery company into wind turbine manufacture in 1979. Birger Madsen is today a consultant to the global wind power industry. Now heading Tacke, Finn Hansen stresses that the German-American company was the first to globally market a 1.5 MW turbine.
It is this machine which is now being installed in an offshore plant of seven units at Utgrunden, in Swedish waters off Gotland. The project is being run by Enron's Aalborg office and in many respects resembles that planned for Horns Rev in Denmark, a submerged sandbank off the west coast not far from the town of Esbjerg. Enron's involvement in a Swedish project which resembles a forthcoming Danish project is no coincidence, assures Mikael Jakobsson, who mans the Aalborg office, having recently replaced the first temporary director, Paul-Erik Andersen.
Jakobsson says that Enron chose to lead the Utgrunden project from Aalborg -- and not from Sweden -- because of the availability of qualified and experienced wind industry workers, a resource a new company needs. In addition, Aalborg has a fertile technical-research environment. Enron is aiming to bid for Denmark's offshore tenders with turbines that are just as "Danish" as those of their competitors, argues Jakobsson. The Enron turbines for Utgrunden have the same proportion of domestic components as those from Danish companies, he says. Towers and foundations have been made at the remaining shipyard in the Danish town of Frederikshavn and the blades by LM Glasfiber. The gear boxes and generators come from suppliers outside Denmark, as do most of those used by the Danish wind industry.
Utgrunden is also of direct interest to the Danish utilities who will soon be selecting suppliers of turbines for their offshore projects, Jakobsson agrees. "Our goal with Utgrunden is to prepare ourselves in relation to logistics and service for the demands and conditions of offshore wind farms," he says. "The project is eight-and-half kilometres from Gotland and twelve-and-a-half from the mainland, similar to Horns Rev. In addition, the conditions are roughly the same as the utilities seem to be considering for Horns Rev, according to the tender documents. For this reason we're working at Utgrunden with the same type of foundations and the same tower principles that are being indicated for Horns Rev."
Even at this stage, Danish companies would appear to be up against stiff competition. According to Jakobsson, the types of tower and foundation Enron is working with will save up to 50 tons of material, a saving made possible by Enron's use of its patented variable speed technology. This gives a saving that competitors can calculate by the kilo, he agrees. Enron's 2 MW turbine, which could be used in a bid for the Danish projects, is identical with the 1.5 MW machine at Utgrunden, aside from a larger generator, adds Jakobsson.
Enron-Tacke is planning to install the Utgrunden turbines this month and have them in operation by October. If it keeps to this schedule, the company will be the first to have built an offshore wind plant at a distance from land which is expected to become the norm. As Tacke's Hansen concedes, it will signal the company's clear goal: "To play a leading role in the development of this exciting new Scandinavian market."
More German pressure
Also German owned Enercon, in terms of megawatt installed the fourth largest wind company in the world according to BTM Consult's annual wind industry survey, has its sights on the Danish offshore market. So far it has just one representative on Danish soil, however. "And that's the way it will continue, considering the way the market looks at the moment," says Enercon's man in Denmark, Jørn Kristensen, formerly of NEG Micon. "We're bidding for offshore wind projects and if we win an order we'll probably be in a position to set up an organisational structure to deal with that specific project."
Enercon has two blade manufacturing facilities of its own, but it has been in contact with potential suppliers of towers in Denmark. The Danish content of Enercon turbines will only be considered if Enercon receives Danish orders, says Kristensen.