The picturesque coastal town of Husum in northern Germany was bursting at the seams last month as in excess of 20,000 visitors flooded to the world's largest wind energy exhibition. Over four days, more than 260 exhibitors from 16 countries presented their products and services at Windtech Husum, triple the number at the town's last wind event in 1999, according to organiser Husum Messe. Exhibition space was also nearly trebled to 12,000 square metres, with three large marquees expanding the floor space offered by the main exhibition building. Other temporary structures housing displays were more imaginative, such as up-ended rotor hubs.
The presence of two top politicians on the opening day at Windtech Husum clearly delighted the organisers. Both federal environment minister Jürgen Trittin and Schleswig-Holstein energy minister Claus Möller gave upbeat speeches that recognised the achievements of German wind energy. Trittin made it clear that he wanted amendments made to the German renewable energy law so that it took account of the needs of the emerging offshore wind market after 2006. As it stands, the law stipulates that offshore wind power can receive the law's premium tariff of DEM 0.178/kWh for fully nine years, before being reduced under the rules of the 20 year tariff, but only if the plant are on-line before the end of 2006. Plant built after 2006 must make do with the maximum rate for only five years before these are automatically reduced -- the same rule as for onshore wind plant. Trittin also stressed the need for a "clear labelling system" for renewables generated electricity.
Möller announced a new target for wind energy in Schleswig-Holstein -- 50% of the state's electricity generation from wind by 2010. This replaces the earlier target for the state of a 25% share for wind in electricity generation which will be reached by 2003, Möller said.
The exhibition was accompanied by a low key congress, Markets of Tomorrow, which attracted a surprising 400 participants, far more than the organisers had expected. Yet despite the claims that Husum Windtech had grown into an international event, congress sessions concentrated on the German offshore market, the German repowering market and export opportunities for the German wind industry.
Indeed, many a foreign visitor was left struggling not only with inadequate transport connections to far flung Husum, but also with information packs in German, public address system announcements in German, and a serious lack of car parking facilities and hotel rooms, with exhibitors facing daily round trips in excess of 100 kilometres. Traffic chaos and a taxi shortage ruined many a proud reputation for punctuality. Even the makeshift congress location, in a car sales room a good distance from the exhibition, left a lot to be desired. And no-one was enamoured by the soggy carpeted walkways between the exhibition halls and a quagmire of a car park.
Windtech Husum had clearly grown out of its birthplace and may well become the victim of its own success. But there are mixed feelings in the industry about moving the event to Hamburg, where trade fair company Hamburg Messe has a wind power exhibition planned for June 2002. The town of Husum has benefited greatly from the economic boost provided by the wind industry event.
"Husum is a decentralised location for a decentralised energy," is the view of Heinrich Bartelt, director of the German wind plant operators' association, Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE). It organised the congress along with the industry association for promotion of wind energy, Fördergesellschaft Windenergie (FGW). "The town of Husum is great, it has charm," said Heinrich Lohmann of wind developer Umweltkontor, who was keen to spread the word about his company's family of "Blue" financial products for the wind sector.
Other exhibitors were also satisfied. "The service was very good, hotels and restaurants are all very reasonably priced and we're amazed what can be done with temporary exhibition structures," commented Kati Pesola of Metso, a subsidiary of the Finnish Valmet Power Transmission. It was exhibiting for the first time at Husum and displayed two turbine gear units built for the DeWind D8 machine and Vestas V52 850 kW, respectively, and a turbine nacelle frame for an NEG Micon NM 900 turbine.
Time to move to Hamburg
Most, however, expressed frustration and even anger at the cramped walkways and poor facilities. "I've been one of those saying it should be kept at Husum, but this is ridiculous. It's time to move," said LM Glasfiber's managing director Anders Christensen. Head of renewables at power industry giant ABB, Stephen Burgin, was of the same view as he grimly viewed his sodden shoes and recalled the long wait in traffic to get near the exhibition. Spanish iron foundry company Sakana had trucked in a hub for its display from Spain. "It would be more comfortable in Hamburg. It was expensive to bring everything here," said the company's Marisa Basols.
"The organisation was unprofessional," complained Andrea Hein from Enron Wind Europe, which had a large stand and presented a model of its new 3.6 MW machine for offshore use. "The electricity cables in the hall couldn't take the load and the lights had to be switched off at intervals -- and getting a stand telephone organised was difficult," she said. "Hamburg should be the place for an international wind trade fair," she stated firmly. With big business holding the key to wind energy becoming a major power supplier of the future, it seems that Husum is yet another aspect of decentralisation the industry can do without. Nonetheless, the organisers claim that many exhibitors have pledge to come again in 2003 as the long as the town has "considerably improved" its access roads, something that is already in hand according to Windtech Husum.
If disgruntled about the venue, exhibitors could not complain about attendance, which by the last day the organisers were claiming at 22,000, compared with 9000 in 1999. Visitors packed the halls with progress along walkways often nigh on impossible. Component suppliers, displaying products from lighting instruments and safety harnesses, to huge gear boxes and generators, to bolt tensioning devices and lubricants, made up much of the exhibition content, along with wind station developers, banks, insurance companies and others providing services. But more often than not these exhibits were dwarfed by the huge displays of turbine manufacturers.
PRIDE OF PLACE
In the largest hall, the German industry's top company, Enercon, took pride of place with its stand in the company's usual green livery. Both Danish Vestas and German Fuhrländer used helicopters as eyecatchers, while Vestas also used a turbine nacelle to house a high tech cinema with three dimensional viewing. NEG Micon had the nacelle of its 1.5 MW machine integrated into its imposing stand.
Under canvas, DeWind and Enron Wind each covered a huge area with impressive displays. Newcomer to the wind turbine making business in Germany, Pfleiderer, also made an impact with a circular tower in bright blue and green at the core of its stand, complemented by an open, tubular structure opposite in which visitors could take rest and shelter. Not doing things in halves, Pfleiderer also displayed the nacelle of its 1.5 MW machine installed on a tower section at the fringe of the exhibition ground, next to the nacelle of DeWind's new 2 MW D8 turbine.
Other efforts to attract attention included a Bedouin-style tent complete with oriental carpets. A wind energy consulting project group involving Plenum Energy of Husum, the Institute for Solar Energy Technology, ISET, and others, had chosen this setting to publicise their joint deal with Libyan electricity utility Gecol for a pilot wind station of up to 20 MW in Libya. Three American companies EnXco, MLS Electrosystem and Southwest Windpower also managed the journey to Husum, despite the carnage wrought in New York and Washington DC just a week previously. The congress opened with a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks.