Dutch company sets up in America -- Direct drive manufacture

Dutch Lagerwey wind turbine technology, having experienced a quiet rebirth in Europe, is now planting a seed in America. Netherlands-based Emergya Wind Technologies, which bought the intellectual property rights of bankrupt Lagerwey Windturbine in 2004, is now marketing a line of 900 kW turbines on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean under the name DirectWind. The turbine drive train is designed to transfer the energy of the rotor directly to the generator without use of a gearbox.

Emergya is behind two new manufacturing facilities in Little Rock, Arkansas. The location gives it access to the Mississippi River, the major barge-shipping lane for most of the Midwest wind market. One of Emergya's subsidiaries, Polymarin Composites, is investing $16 million to refurbish a former Levi Strauss building, where it will build 25 metre blades predominantly for DirectWind turbines, although some excess capacity could be sold to third parties. It expects to be building its first blades during the first quarter of 2009.

Netherlands-based Wind Water Technology, Emergya's preferred component supplier for heavy fabrication, will invest $4 million in the same location to build the hubs, nacelles and assemble all the hardware needed for a complete wind turbine. Most components will be built there except towers and generators. Turbine assembly is expected to start in Little Rock during the last quarter of 2009.

Market advantages

This is the company's beachhead into the Americas, says Emergya's Frank Epps. He provides no details of any turbine sales, but claims the relatively modest size of the DirectWind turbine has market advantages. "We are phenomenal in community wind, where restrictions are required for zoning of size and height, and we're great for behind-the-meter for industrial and agricultural applications," says Epps, referring to a limited market in America for small wind projects that are locally owned and developed.

Two DirectWind 900 kW machines have been installed in the US, one in Wray, Colorado, providing power to a school and one in St Ansgar, Iowa, owned by Paul Roeder of Wind Vision. Roeder's primary work is land lease acquisition for small wind developer Ecoenergy, but the Emergya turbine was a personal project arranged in part with an equity partner. He says the turbine reminds him of the no-frills simplicity of his father's old 1950s Chevy pickup truck.

"When you look at a turbine and all the parts in it, the more things you've got, the more things that can go wrong," says Roeder. "This one appeals to me because of its rather basic design. Once you get them going, they are very dependable units. And for me, the biggest thing being an owner is that any turbine will make you money, but it's 20 years down the road when the turbine needs to make you money."

The largest installation of Emergya's DirectWind turbines is a 14.4 MW wind farm in the Netherlands, developed by Delta Energy, using 16 units (Windpower Monthly, April 2006). More than 250 older Lagerwey two-blade models still spin across the Netherlands and Germany, says Epps.

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