Record year at home and abroad, Danish industry

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With sales of 505 MW to export customers and over 220 MW to the domestic market, the Danish wind industry celebrated a record year in 1996, both at home and abroad. The 4300 wind turbines turning in Denmark amount to 850 MW of installed capacity and meet 5% of the country's electricity needs, reports the wind industry's association.

The industry's growth rate for 1996 was about 20%, despite stagnating markets in both India and Germany which in 1995 bought more wind turbines than any other. Shockingly, from being the most active market for the Danish industry in 1995, India dropped to a dismal 11th place last year with sales of under 6 MW compared with nearly 162 MW the year before. At the same time the German market's growth rate slowed for the first time this decade (Windpower Monthly, February 1997). Here Danish wind companies sold 186 MW in 1996 compared with 185 MW in 1995.

The lack of progress in India and Germany was compensated for, however, by a dramatic upturn in the fortunes of the home market which set a new record in wind capacity installations for one year. Over 220 MW was sold in Denmark, mainly to individual private customers, compared with 98 MW in 1995 and just 52 MW in 1994. Sales took off in Spain, too, while Britain and the Netherlands saw healthy improvements on the previous year. Other markets now getting established, such as Sweden and China, remained steady, while a number of new markets stirred into life. Italy, in particular, bought nearly 30 MW of wind turbines from Denmark.

The improve fortunes of the Danish market are partially to do with the improving political climate, warmed by firm government statements of support. But it was exploitation of a loophole in regulations governing wind turbine ownership which gave the market its 1996 boost. People can only own wind turbines in Denmark which are sited in the council district in which they live, or the neighbouring district. It was discovered, however, that distant windy sites could be "annexed" to a potential owner's property, thereby providing a site which could be developed.

Reporting total sales of 726 MW in 1996, the Danish Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association points out that it has quadrupled sales in the past four years and improved them by a factor of eight in the past eight years. Some 93% was sold privately, mainly to farmers, with most of the remainder going to utility customers. "The 416 new turbines will produce more electricity than the first 3000 modern wind turbines erected in Denmark between 1980 and 1990," states the association. Denmark is now half way to reaching its goal of 10% electricity from wind energy by 2005. By the year 2020, the government is seeking to have 40-50% of demand met by wind plant.

Despite the year of record sales, wind industry leaders in Denmark are cautious. Vestas director Johannes Poulsen describes turnover in 1996 as "slightly bigger" than in 1995, though profits will be greater. In 1997 he expects "not alarming but interesting" growth in turnover. At Bonus, Palle Nørgaard expects a year with more or less the same turnover as 1996, which increased to "well over" DKK 500 million from DKK 400 million in 1995. Micon's 1996 turnover was down on that of 1995), but the firm's Ole Bøgelund Nielsen expects it to improve this year. Nordtank also expects the company's steady increase in turnover to continue, as does Nordex where turnover fell in 1996 to DKK 200 million compared with DKK 300 million the year before, says the company's Jens Pedersen.

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