Industry eyes on new technology -- First American DeWind

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The first DeWind turbine on US shores will be shipped from Germany and not made in Texas where the manufacturing schedule has slipped by six months. Composite Technology Corporation (CTC), DeWind's owner, originally expected that as many as 57 units would roll off a new Texas assembly line by year's end through a partnership with TECO-Westinghouse. CTC's Vic Lilly says the company is taking it "slow and easy" with production. By year's end, two or three machines will have been made in America; production starts in earnest there in 2008. Eighteen machines will be produced in parallel in Germany.

Component availability has played a role in the delayed launch. "Initially we won't even be at full speed... because we can't get enough components," says CTC's Benton Wilcoxon. "We hope to be announcing some good size orders very shortly. But we don't want to be promising things we can't deliver."

Lilly says CTC is in discussion with US suppliers and is investigating the potential for sourcing some components from China. Casting parts are coming from Brazil and the welded nacelle base is to be made in the US. In 2008, about 100 DeWind 2 MW turbines will be made in total from Germany and the US. Components are lined up for them, says Lilly. Moventas in Finland and Germany's Zollern will provide gearboxes. Blades are coming from German-based SINOI, which evolved from NOI Rotortechnik after the collapse of its Scottish business, withdrawal from Spain, and emergence from insolvency proceedings started in 2004. SINOI is now owned by the Chinese Lianyungang Zhongfu Lianzhong Composites Group. CTC says it is also in very early stages considering the opening of a blade facility in the US.

Raising interest in the broad wind industry is CTC's decision to go with a revolutionary power converter from well established German electrical engineering company Voith. Dubbed the WinDrive torque converter, it is a mechanical means of converting power from the varying speed of the blades into a fixed speed to drive DeWind's synchronous generator, allowing power to be fed directly into the high voltage grid without the use of power conversion electronics. Not using a power converter is partly a means to get around patents controlled by GE Energy in the US market. But the wind industry is also watching the Voith technology's performance with interest as it may mark a significant step towards simplifying the connection of wind turbines to the grid.

Higher learning

Wilcoxon is keen to see an American 60 hertz version of the DeWind turning in the US. "Americans don't want to go to Germany to see it. They want to see one work right here before spending hundreds of millions of dollars." His wish is to be fulfilled. Texas State Technical College has secured an agreement with CTC for the first DeWind demonstration unit in the US to be part of a hands-on classroom project beginning this fall.

The school, in Sweetwater, Texas, will purchase the 2 MW turbine's output with plans to eventually buy the machine. "They'll use our prototype as a real-life training ground," says Wilcoxon. "Graduates of the course could easily be certified in maintenance of our turbine." The machine at the college will also serve as a quasi US sales brochure for the DeWind brand, which under previous ownership was a popular buy in Germany. Nearly 600 turbines turn in Europe today, the first from 1995.

CTC also claims to have made its first commercial sale. It is shipping one 2 MW unit to San Juan, Argentina, where the plan is to install it at 4000 metres to provide power to the Valadero mining operation. Small UK company Seawind is the lead developer/contractor for the project.

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