Canada firm selects unknown technology -- New German turbine

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The sale and installation of a 1.2 MW wind turbine in Canada has brought a small German firm out into the open after what it says have been years of research. "We've been undercover for a long time and now we are coming out to make a mark," says Jürgen Millhoff, head of marketing for Vensys Energiesysteme, based in Saarbrücke.

The company, founded in 2000 to commercialise work done the previous decade in the wind research department at the Saarbrücke institute for technology and economy, has developed a direct drive, gearless turbine utilising permanent magnet technology. Vensys, says Millhoff, currently has three turbines up and operating, with the third unit installed in Springhill, Nova Scotia in December by Ottawa-based Vector Wind Energy Inc.

Vector, says president Brian Barr, was interested in direct drive technology and its technical consultant travelled to Germany to inspect the turbine. "He was really quite impressed with the machine and its technical features." There was also another factor in choosing Vensys. "It was also available for immediate delivery, which is critical right now as most manufacturers are quoting 2007 and 2008." For a small developer like Vector, getting hardware in the ground is important, says Barr, and not just for the operational experience. "It also establishes credibility," he explains. "That seems to have become a critical issue in this era of tight supply. Little companies like us find it hard to get noticed by bigger companies. If we can say we've built some machines and we are building machines, it helps in those discussions and that helps put the whole package together in a bid program."

The Vensys installation is Vector's first and is helping fulfil 6 MW worth of contracts the company won in Nova Scotia Power's 2004 solicitation for projects 2 MW and smaller in size. Vector has since sold its interest in the projects to its joint venture partner, the First Asset Renewable Power Flow-Through LP III, but has signed a contract to manage the construction and operation. It will do the same for a 4 MW power purchase agreement First Asset has with SaskPower, Saskatchewan's government-owned utility.

Vector is also expecting delivery of two AWE 900 kW turbines in March to be installed in Nova Scotia, says Barr. AWE, or Americas Wind Energy, is a Toronto-based company that holds the rights to supply Lagerwey-designed technology, from a deceased Dutch company of the same name, to the North American market. Vector plans to use Vensys machines to fulfil the balance of the Nova Scotia contracts and is considering using the turbines in Saskatchewan.

Cyprus, China, Spain

The first Vensys prototype was installed in Sitzerath, Germany, in 2003 and reinstalled in 2004 after fire damage. A second machine was erected in Urumqi in northwest China in May 2005 for Goldwind, which bought a licence to build the turbines for the Chinese market back in 2004. A licence for both the 1.2 MW design and Vensys 1.5 MW has also been sold to Spanish project developer El Marquesado Eólico. The Madrid company says it will start producing Vensys turbines this year, installing some of them in projects it has recently sold to utility Iberdrola.

Vensys hopes to install 15-25 turbines this year, including the 1.5 MW versions, in Germany, Canada, Cyprus and elsewhere in Europe. At the end of the year erection of a prototype of the Vensys 92, a 2.5 MW turbine, is planned. The turbines are being built by CKD, an engineering company in Prague, under a contract signed in spring 2005. LM Glasfiber of Denmark and German Abeking & Rassmussen are supplying the blades.

The company's major shareholder is Hugo Denker, who acquired 74% of Vensys at the end of 2002. Denker was a stakeholder in German turbine builder Repower before selling the stake to Portuguese construction company Martifer last year. Vensys has financed development of its turbine technology through input from its stakeholders, licence fees and research grants from the state of Saarland. It employs 14 people, ten of whom are engineers.

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