New look trade fair lived up to its promise

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Megawatt technology and wind turbine manufacturers from Denmark and the host country dominated this year's major wind energy event in Germany, the Husum Wind trade fair and conference. No less than three megawatt class turbine nacelles were exhibited at the event, two 1.5 MW units by NEG Micon of Denmark and a 1.3 MW from Germany's Nordex Balcke-Dürr. And on the eve of the start of the trade fair, held September 17-21 in the north German town of Husum, Vestas unveiled its 1.65 MW machine at its Husum factory. It was the first time that a clutch of the new generation of wind turbines has been on public view. Of the 14 wind turbine manufacturers present, all were from either Denmark or Germany barring one, Wintec of Austria. Like several others, however, it did not have a turbine nacelle on display.

The trade fair, held every other year in Husum since 1989, had managed a quantum leap with its fifth staging. Gone were the leaky roofs and uneven floorboards of Husum's old cattle auction hall where exhibitors had spilled out into an assorted selection of tents hitched to the walls of the building. This year the over 10,000 visitors -- a record number -- were the first attend an event in the town's brand new exhibition centre. With huge glass facades and air conditioning to match, the 4500 square metres of purpose built space shed both light and air over the more than 100 exhibitor booths.

"This is the largest wind energy trade fair in the world," boasted Peter Wellmann from the organising company, Husumer Wirtschaftsgesellschaft. This year, it had the facilities worthy of the title. In total, nearly 110 companies had stands at the event, an increase of 30% on 1995, according to the organisers. The exhibitors were "more than satisfied with the new infrastructure," Wellmann said, although he admitted the scheduling was tight. The hall was completed only two and a half weeks before the event began.

The approach to the new centre was graced by the gleaming white nacelle of NEG Micon's 1.5 MW flagship. Many visitors climbed in and out of its belly before moving into the main building. Inside, the larger turbine manufacturers were clearly flexing their biceps for an expansive future, with some stands so large they encompassed two floors. As well as NEG Micon's second 1.5 MW nacelle and Nordex Balcke Dürr's 1.3 MW, others displaying turbines included Husumer Schiffswerft, with a 600 kW machine it is marketing jointly with Jacobs Energie, and AN Windenergie, recently sprung from the wind division of AN Maschinenbau und Umweltschutzanlagen, makers of Bonus turbines. Vestas exhibited a 660 kW turbine nacelle and Enercon had a substantial presence, too, but was not displaying a turbine. It is to launch a new 850 kW design next year.

Among the smaller manufacturers, Wincon Vestfrost was present from Denmark, along with Wind World and its Hard Wind Cafe. From Germany, Südwind, Fuhrländer and DeWind were all in evidence, though GET Danwin was not.

A plethora of research, planning and certification companies filled out the exhibition floor, including Mocal from the Netherlands and Garrad Hassan from England. Four banks and financing companies also took stands, along with a range of component manufacturers. But only one rotor blade supplier was present, LM Glasfiber, the world's largest.

Lack lustre conference

Criticism of the event was reserved entirely for the accompanying conference, held in a congress hall a bus ride away from the exhibition centre. Those who did make the journey expressed themselves disappointed at lack lustre presentations with little news value. Heike Klein from the organising office admits the political speeches "fell flat," although she points out that specialist themes such as turbine maintenance were well received.

The key note political speech was delivered by Peter Schmitt, an official of the federal agriculture and forestry ministry who was substituting for his sick boss, Jochen Borchert. He chose to virtually ignore the dramatic news of the night before that scheduled parliamentary discussions of the all important Electricity Feed Law (EFL) had been postponed (story page ?). The most comfort he could offer was a brief assurance that the government was not about to pull the carpet from under renewables.

The remainder of his 40 minute presentation included such gems as "expansion [of renewables] means there is more to come" and the illuminating information that, "turbines will carry on turning before change comes, but nobody can yet say what change this will be." With the agricultural ministers of Germany's 16 Länder meeting in Husum during the wind event, more had been hoped of Schmitt, in particular on the future of farmers as wind turbine owners.

Several of the audience of 50 or so trickled out of the hall during Schmitt's talk. Previously, though, they had heard Olaf Bastian, president of the district of Nord-Friesland, home to the densest concentration of wind turbines in Germany, give what many termed a moderate view. He has a reputation for being anti-wind. Bastian warned that the race was on among wind developers to secure the remaining grid capacity in the district and that there would be many disappointments. "Other districts still have this discussion ahead of them," he warned.

Werner Kleinkauf, chairman of the German association for the promotion of wind energy, Fördergesellschaft Wind Energie (FGW), said a realistic political aim would be for 5000 MW of wind energy capacity in Germany by 2005. He was later challenged by Gert Nimz, of utility Schleswag, who warned that the existing grid network cannot take infinite amounts of wind. He has long said that mechanisms for curtailing the output of wind turbines in periods of low demand will need to be found. "Which is cheaper, reining back turbine output for steadier if lower generation over longer periods or using battery storage to maintain a stable electricity supply?" he asked. Pitch controlled turbines with "soft" generators are the basis for further development, he said. Nimz is soon to retire.

Forum success

A traditional part of German wind conferences, the manufacturers' forum, was supplemented at the Husum conference by a series of operator forums for each of the major makes of wind turbine. The most well attended of these sessions were the Enercon and Tacke forums, which drew more than 20 people each, contrasting with the mere handful who made it to the NEG Micon gathering.

The manufacturers' forum -- where representatives of each company active on the German market are given time for a presentation and question and answers -- was again a popular session, drawing about 80, probably the largest audience of the week. The absence of DeWind's Hugo Shipmman for his scheduled appearance was later blamed on a "misfortune" by a company spokesperson.

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