As the third showcase event for wind power technology to be staged in northern Germany in the past nine months, the WindEnergy international trade fair in Hamburg, held May 11-14, struggled to make its mark as the event of the wind industry calendar, even though it had grown in size since its first staging in 2002. To the disappointment of many, Vestas and Enercon, the world's largest and third largest wind turbine suppliers, chose once again not to exhibit in Hamburg, which in its second version remained a distinctly German event, both in outlook and language, despite its international title and the large number of foreign exhibitors.
In sheer size, however, only the HusumWind Trade Fair, held 100 kilometres north of Hamburg in September, can outdo the Hamburg event. While the well established and easily accessible facilities of the Hamburg Messe show ground pulled in more than 330 exhibitors and around 10,000 visitors, outlying Husum attracted 470 exhibiting companies, including Vestas and Enercon, and 20,000 visitors to its temporarily constructed facilities under canvas. Not that numbers are the whole story. Quality not quantity is the aim of the Hamburg show -- and according to at least some exhibitors present at both events, visitor quality was higher in Hamburg.
"We have got better people here. Instead of enthusiasts getting in the way, this is a place to do business. It's much more professional. I do not want to waste my time. The people here are specialists," commented JF Ferrary from Canadian company GasTops, which sells a device to detect metal particles in oil. Other exhibitors were not so dogmatic.
"I think that Husum is still the biggest and most important for us. But this one is more international," said Sebastian van Mill from Dutch transport company VD Vlist, which specialises in moving large turbine components over land. It was a comment echoed by others, including Jost Bergmann from DNV Maritime Germany, a division of Det Norske Veritas, which type-approves wind turbines. "Business has been good here and we are busy. I believe Husum is number one and this is now number two. We are very happy to be here, but for us, Husum is better for business," he said.
Comparison with the third event of the north German trio -- the broad Hannover industry trade fair held in April -- is more difficult. Its wind power focus is based on an agreement with the organisers of the Husum show that encourages companies with wind related business to fly a common "HusumWind" banner (Windpower Monthly, May 2004). As such, Hannover mainly appears to be evolving as the place where global companies use the banner to note that they also supply components for wind power stations. Among the exceptions to that rule were wind-only companies Vestas and Enercon, and the small German wind turbine supplier Fuhrländer, a regular Hannover exhibitor but another notable absentee from Hamburg last month.
Hamburg also struggled to attract big names from the German political scene, with the result that television coverage was minimal compared with the media following that federal environment minister Jurgen Trittin brought to Husum. The opening ceremony at Hamburg was attended by Simone Probst, parliamentary state secretary of the federal environment ministry, and Hamburg's environment senator Michael Freytag, both of whom underlined the economic importance of the wind industry. Bremen senator for construction, environment and transport, Jens Eckhoff, came along to support a push by a several Bremen-based companies including AN Windenergie (marketer of Danish Bonus wind turbines), Windenergie-Agentur Bremerhaven/Bremen, representing the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven, and Reetec, a renewable energy electrical technology company.
Speculation over why Vestas, Enercon and Fuhrländer chose not to exhibit at Hamburg ranged from purported personal animosities between members of the organising boards of the various German wind events, to sparring wind energy associations championing competing trade fairs to further their individual causes. The companies gave other reasons. Enercon's Nicole Weinand says the decision to concentrate on the Hannover fair was strategic, and the result "very successful," particularly for foreign business. Vestas was of the same opinion. "Hannover is an intact trade fair where we not only meet customers and our components suppliers but also energy supply companies -- and it has international flair," says Vestas Deutschland's Andreas Eichler.
For cost-conscious Fuhrländer, the overwhelming number of component suppliers bears no relation to the small number of turbine manufacturers that Hamburg attracts, says the company's Walter Lütz. Direct contacts with component suppliers makes more sense than the cost of a presence at Hamburg, he adds. The company has exhibited regularly at the Hannover event since 1995, but noted that for wind power the industry fair has weakened. It may be more feasible in future for Fuhrländer to appear at several small regional events around the world, he said, which would cost less than just one appearance in Hamburg or Hannover."
Fuhrländer, like Vestas, is set on continuing its support of the long-running Husum wind event, held every other year since 1988. "We are a company with a sense of tradition. Husum is a matter of the heart. It's the place where the whole branch meets. It has a charm that the Hamburg trade fair complex doesn't have -- and its significantly cheaper," Lütz said.
Still, the more than 330 companies from 18 countries who presented their products at Hamburg clearly held a different view. Compared with the 240 exhibitors in 2002, their number has not only grown but become more international: 150 companies from outside Germany brought their products to Hamburg this year, compared with just 60 two years ago. While the visitor number remained constant at about 10,000, around 30% came from other countries, representing a 40% increase in foreign presence. The trend may be more reflective of the German industry's efforts to grow into foreign markets as the potential at home shrinks, rather than a true internationalisation of the event.
With two wind industry giants missing, the turbine manufacturers present were magnets of attraction, particularly the stands of GE Energy, Repower and AN Bonus, where entire nacelles were on view. GE displayed a 2.5 MW version of its new 2.X series, still under development, while Bonus brought along its 2.3 MW turbine and Repower its 2 MW machine. Also present with large stands were Gamesa of Spain, India's Suzlon, the UK's DeWind, and Nordex from Germany, while Winwind from Finland and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries mounted more modest displays. The presence of Nordex at an international event (it was missing from Global Windpower in Chicago in March) was a tangible sign of the company's slow return to economic health.
India's Suzlon said it did not display a wind turbine as it is not yet ready to sell its products in Europe. First it is focusing on creating awareness of Suzlon, said project manager Vivek Taneja. "We are out there and getting our name known and getting people interested in the organisation," he said. Suzlon was advertising employment opportunities for a range of wind power specialists. "We are focussing on one or two markets at a time. At the moment the focus is on the US. Once that is running as an independent profit making unit, we can move on," said Taneja. As well as the US, Suzlon's particular focus for the time being is India, with its sights moving to China and Australia. "It has been a very good show," Taneja said of the trade fair. "We have been very busy with a lot of people coming over to find out about Suzlon."
The ranks of exhibitors were swelled by more than 80 component suppliers, 13 wind developers, and 20 measurement, engineering, wind forecasting and other specialist companies, including a showing of German ports keen to develop their offshore facilities. There were nine Danish firms on a joint stand, five Finnish exhibitors, a large Spanish pavilion housing more than a dozen companies that included wind turbine manufacturer MTorres Disenos Industriale, and a UK village with, among others, 17 component suppliers based in the West Midlands region. A number of institutions and professional associations, universities and research institutes rounded out the show.
The world of major finance was small at Hamburg. Just two insurance companies -- Marsh from the UK and WindPro Insurance from the US -- and two banks were present, the KfW and the Hypovereinsbank, both of them German. KfW, with dual but separate roles as a normal bank and Germany's development aid bank, was keen to spread the word on its overseas environment support program, which provides attractive loans to wind and other projects in which German and foreign partners co-operate. "But this program is aimed at small and middle sized companies. On a larger scale, German and other offshore project financing and large foreign projects are handled by KfW subsidiary Ipex," said the company's Michael Lukaszen.
Major members of the broad electric power industry were a rare breed in Hamburg, with only Denmark's electricity network operator, Eltra, an eager investor in wind plant offshore and on land, putting in a formal appearance. The conventional electricity sector, however, came within spitting distance of the wind industry through a one-and-a-half day technical seminar organised by the German electricity federation, Verband der Elektrizitätswirtschaft (VDEW), through its energy publishing company. The seminar focused on the impact on network operation of revisions to the German renewable energy law, including on offshore wind energy projects. Christian Schneller, head of policy at E.on Energie, the largest of the four power companies that dominate the German electricity market, used the opportunity of the seminar to raise doubts about the national renewables support system and the potential negative impact on Germany's economic well being of premium prices payable for renewable energy.
While the VDEW event lay outside the trade fair program, a series of small seminars, dubbed dialog@WindEnergy, were held throughout the four day event. They focussed on legal issues, technology, financing and markets. The sessions attracted anything from a mere handful to 70-80 listeners, with varying levels of interest in national presentations from countries ranging from the Baltic states, Poland and the Czech Republic (with presentations supported by the German economy ministry) to larger wind power markets such as the United States and Great Britain.
Exhibitors views on WindEnergy were broadly positive. Katrin Beier from generator manufacturer VEM of Dresden said, "It was certainly worth coming to consolidate existing contacts, although new contacts here are fewer." Thomas Weber from Waelzlagerschaeden.de, a German specialist in roller bearing damage, said it was important to have a presence at trade fairs. He reported visits by insurance companies, manufacturers, component suppliers and turbine operators. After 12 years in the bearing industry and two years in wind, he said he has "an awful lot to do." Meike Bohn from Italy's Bonfiglioli, one of the largest suppliers of yaw and pitch drives to the wind industry, felt the fair was not as well attended as that at Husum in September, but stressed the need to nurture contacts, see what the competition is doing and be seen. About 20% of the company's turnover in Germany is made in the wind sector.
Another exhibitor from southern Europe was Spanish Gamesa, currently the fourth largest wind turbine supplier in the world and also a project developer. "We are very happy with our presence in Hamburg. It promotes the acceptance of Gamesa," said Enrique Pedrosa. The company recently secured a foothold on the German market through its acquisition of German project developer EBV. It has also secured its first German order.
The WindEnergy event was organised by the Hamburg Messe company, with the support of the German engineering union VDMA and the European Wind Energy Association, among others. The aim, said project manager Heiko Heiden, was to provide a one-stop and world class show case for the wind power industry. Indeed, a need had been identified back in 2001 for the industry to have a premier fair held in an international location. But with the wind industry continuing to support a wide variety of competing events, it is an ambition proving hard to realise. "What this industry needs is a global strategy for its conferences," said Heiden. He suggests supporting a major exhibition every two years while holding a major conference in the gap years.