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The future of the country's electricity feed law (EFL), local concern about development and acceptance of wind energy in Schleswig-Holstein and the increasing importance of export markets were central themes at this year's Husum wind energy congress in northern Germany. The main aim of the congress, though, was to bring delegates up to date on a wider range of issues, including the progress of European and national support programmes and market opportunities abroad.

The congress, though, took a back seat role to the accompanying exhibition. Held September 13-17 in the "wind capital of Germany," it was a hive of activity. Wind turbine customers swarmed to Husm, giving the wind fair a healthy down-to-earth trading atmosphere. As such, the event seems to have firmly established itself on the wind industry's calendar as a place to be.

According to the organising company, Husumer Wirtschaftgesellschaft (HWG), as many as 2000 people daily visited the somewhat rough and ready display area, housed partly under canvas and partly in the town's cattle market building. While 150 to 300 experts attended the congress each day, some 80 companies took part in the exhibition, though lack of space meant that 20 to 30 companies were squeezed out. Missing from the packed exhibition floor were companies like NedWind from Holland, Belgium WindMaster and the Wind Energy Group from England, all of whom are normally keen exhibitors.

HWG ran the event for the first time this year after its predecessor, Husum Messe of Hannover, decided to move its wind exhibition and congress to the huge international Hannover industry trade fair. Initially it was feared that too few companies would exhibit to allow the popular Husum event to continue, but the industry rallied at the last moment to save the day. Nevertheless, HGW would welcome a decision to run the Hannover and Husum events in alternate years.

Initially HWG had sets its sights on holding an event for Germans under the motto "lovable and efficient." But the wind industry has long since flattened national boundaries in its global expansion. Some 20% of the exhibitors were from abroad and the international resonance was astounding, with a last minute decision to provide simultaneous translation in the Congress hall. Small delegations arrived from around the world -- South Korea, India, Egypt, China, Austria and the United Arab Emirates. The Mongolians even arrived a week early in wet and windy Husum.

Service to exhibitors was described as excellent, but the ambience of dripping canvas and a cattle auction house did not provide the right backdrop for the type of display put on by companies like Nordtank. Visitors to its stand could enjoy a drink in the "skybar" on its huge stand while watching a nine-screen multi-media presentation of the company's new 1.5 MW wind turbine. New premises have been promised for next year and the regional government of Schleswig-Holstein seems prepared to step in with some financial aid.

Discussions at the congress were dominated by debate on the Electricity Feed Law (see separate story). On the technical front, however, connection to electricity networks was the dominant subject. A thin thread of dissatisfaction emerged at the way German utilities approach the problem. Grid operators in other countries pointed out there were other approaches which the Germans could try with success. The upshot of this discussion seemed to be that it would be useful to hear a comparison of, say, German and Danish approaches to the world of wind and the grid.

The Husum conference also took a closer look at local issues. It is now clear that Schleswig-Holstein's political aim of installing 1200 MW of wind energy by 2010 is now being used to cap development instead of as a target to aim for. Any further expansion will have to be offshore, a point made clear by Claus Möller, Schleswig-Holstein's energy minister and the instigator of the 1200 MW cap. A main concern of Möller's is for the Electricity Feed Law to also apply offshore.

On exports, the promises and perils of selling wind turbines abroad were described and explained by speakers from the German development bank, KfW of Frankfurt; the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog Windtest company, which discussed technical requirements; the Schleswig-Holstein Development Bank; the industry's Society for the Promotion of Wind Energy, FGW of Kassel; and Tandem Investment and Holding Company of Bremen.

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