Dividing the german cake

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Clear leader of the pack of 31 wind turbine suppliers included in a recent survey of the German market is the country's largest wind company, Enercon. Not only did Enercon deliver more rated capacity than any other company, it also delivered more turbines, seizing around 40% of the entire market, reports the independent Deutsches Windenergie-Institut (DEWI).

Enercon is followed at a very safe distance by Vestas, AN Windenergie, makers of Bonus turbines and restructured in mid-1997 from AN Maschinenbau, and Nordex Balcke-Dürr. Micon and Nordtank are listed as separate companies, although they merged last year. If their installation totals are combined, the new NEG Micon climbs the list to fourth position, ahead of Nordex.

The bankruptcy of what was once Germany's second major wind firm, Tacke Windtechnik, hit home. After sitting comfortably behind Enercon in 1996, it tumbled down the list for last year to sixth place in installed capacity and seventh in number of turbines. Now reborn as Tacke Windenergie under the ownership of American power giant Enron, it remains to be seen how swift a recovery the company makes in 1998.

Although last year's 534 MW of new capacity in Germany was 106 MW more than in 1996, the growth in numbers of turbines is far less spectacular. At 849 turbines this falls well short of the record 1070 machines in 1995 and is only 43 more than the previous year. Even as far back as 1994, as many as 834 turbines were installed in one year. Yet it is numbers of turbines sold, not volume of megawatt installed, which is important for the wind industry's continued good health, comments Norbert Allnoch of the International Industry Forum for Renewable Energies at Münster university.

The relatively large addition of megawatts of capacity compared with number of turbines reflects the increasing popularity of bigger machines, reports DEWI: the average size of wind turbine installed in Germany last year was 628 kW, compared with 530 kW in 1996.

Allnoch believes the market will probably hover around an annual 700-900 turbines for the next few years. Whether this is enough to allow the survival of all the manufacturers currently on the market remains to be seen, he cautions, especially as Tacke is now flexing healthy new muscles. "The size of the cake is unlikely to change so some of the slices will be smaller," Allnoch predicts.

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