Tangled web of linked trade secrets -- Germany's MW turbine industry

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Jacobs Energie is hotly denying all talk of it being taken over by Borsig Energy, the parent company of Nordex and Südwind, two of the wind turbine manufacturers competing with Jacobs on the German market. "We do, however, have a joint development contract for a 5 MW machine -- and only a 5 MW machine -- for offshore use with Borsig Energy, says Jacobs' boss, Hans-Henning Jacobs. The deal was signed in autumn 2000.

The joint venture, however, is caught in a complicated ownership web, with strands linked to several competing companies. Denker and Wulf holds a majority stake in Jacobs Energie and also owns 50% of engineering company Pro and Pro, whose other parent, Aerodyn, has a turbine development contract with Pfleiderer, also for a 5 MW machine. Südwind and Jacobs Energie, meantime, both hold licences for Pro and Pro'sâ 1.5 MW MD70 turbine design.

The plans of Jacobs Energie and Borsig Energy for a 5 MW turbine are separate to the agreement between Jacobs, Husumer Schiffswerft (acquired by Jacobs at the start of 2000) and Lübeck based turbine manufacturer DeWind to develop a 4-5 MW machine for use in a large offshore project near Helgoland planned by wind developer Winkra Energie of Hannover. This agreement, clinched at the Husum Wind energy fair and congress in September 1999, is "still legally valid but there is little movement. DeWind seem to be doing their own thing," according to Olaf Struck of Jacobs Energie. "We are waiting for a statement from DeWind," is the cryptic comment of Hans-Henning Jacobs.

"Our aim is for the wealth creation connected with the Helgoland project to remain in Schleswig-Holstein," comments Uwe Carstensen of Winkra. "We see no need to alter the framework contract with Jacobs Energie and DeWind at this stage. Should the two formally decide to go their separate ways on development of the 4-5 MW machine, that's fine too."

DeWind argues that its planned 3.5 MW turbine will be just as economic as a 4-5 MW unit. "If that is correct, we have no problem there either. But time is getting short. The first machine should be turning in 2002," says Carstensen.

He adds that Winkra signed a framework contract with Vestas last summer for supply of turbines for the second phase of the Helgoland project. Winkra was attracted by Vestas' global size and its large production facility in Husum in Schleswig-Holstein. This in turn has prompted discussions as to whether Germany's market leader, Enercon, should also join the project. The governments of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, where Enercon is based, find the idea attractive, says Carstensen.

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