Siemens steps up pace of growth -- Heading for the top three

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Siemens, just over four years after acquiring long-time Danish wind turbine manufacturer Bonus, is now looking serious about fulfilling its promise to become one of the world's top three suppliers in the sector. Last month it announced it is building wind turbine assembly factories outside Denmark for the first time, in the United States and China, and that it is shifting the centre of gravity of its European wind business from Denmark to the major German port of Hamburg.

In recent years Siemens has occupied sixth place in the world wind turbine rankings with a 6.9% share of the market in 2008, a long way behind market leaders Vestas and GE Energy, which together supplied 38% of all turbines last year (table). But from its entry into the world of wind turbine manufacture in late 2004, its stated intention has been to become a world leader. In acquiring Bonus, Siemens bought the only one of the first wave of European wind turbine manufacturers to avoid bankruptcy and merger while heavily involved in the early American market.

The firm is now to build its first North American turbine factory, in south-central Kansas, and says it will be turning out 650 a year of its 2.3 MW turbines by 2010 and hiring 400 workers for the $50 million plant. Kansas is offering $5 million to any industrial company that invests more than $30 million in the state and creates over 200 jobs, which is a major reason for why Siemens was drawn to the city of Hutchinson, it says. "We see this announcement as the beginning of a manufacturing corridor, from Wichita to Salina, of factories and suppliers supporting wind farms," says Kansas governor Mark Parkinson.

Siemens was further enticed to Kansas by $2 million in cash from city and county agencies, along with enough land to construct a 28,000 square metre plant with ample room to double its size. Local government is to add some $2.5 million in rail improvements and the state is providing training grants and soft loans. Construction of the factory and a smaller service facility is expected to begin in August. Siemens currently makes its US blades at a facility in Fort Madison, Iowa.

In China, the company is building a EUR 60 million factory in Lingang New City, in the eastern port city of Shanghai, to make wind turbine rotor blades and assemble wind turbine nacelles for the domestic market and export. The 180,000 square metre plant is to begin operation in the second half of next year, starting with production of blades for 2.3 MW and 3.6 MW turbines.

The plant, the cornerstone of which was laid on May 22, will employ 400 workers and is located close to Yang Shan harbour, offering Siemens good access to shipping. The facility will first produce 500 MW a year, with the first equipment leaving the factory in time for Shanghai's Expo 2010, which at one time was to have a strong green energy theme.

Offshore preparations

Back in Europe, Siemens is moving its headquarters for European sales and operations to an existing company location in Hamburg, 200 kilometres south of the main wind power premises in the small Danish town of Brande. Siemens is aiming to take advantage of "greatly expanding wind power activities" in Germany and the rest of Europe.

The firm has won a string of orders for the burgeoning north European offshore market, with the total backlog now at 3300 MW following an order for 288 MW late last month from Airtricity, the renewables arm of Scottish and Southern Energy. Eighty Siemens 3.6 MW turbines have been selected for the Butendiek offshore wind farm in the German North Sea for commissioning in 2012 -- an order that was marked up for many years to Vestas. In further preparation for the offshore construction activity, Siemens is also upgrading its base at the port of Bremen, about 125 kilometres south-west of Hamburg, to become the European headquarters for its wind service business. Employees active in sales and operations in Brande in Denmark will relocate to Hamburg, as will some staff from Bremen.

The number of employees in Hamburg will increase in the medium term from 40 to 70. They will control sales, project planning, transport and installation of turbines in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, assisted by local Siemens companies. The Hamburg office will provide the base for expansion into Scandinavia and the UK as well as Turkey and North Africa. Resources for marketing offshore turbines "will also be developed in our new home in Hamburg," says Lars Krogsgaard, CEO of Siemens Wind Power Europe.

Since 1980, Bonus and its successor, Siemens, have installed about 9 GW of wind turbines around the world. Since the purchase of Bonus, Siemens Wind Power has increased employment from 800 to more than 5500 people, 300 of them in Germany.

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