German wind sector hopes for 2011 comeback

By STEFAN NICOLA, UPI Europe Correspondent   |   Jan. 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM   |   0 comments

BERLIN, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The German wind energy industry expects 16 percent growth in new installations at home this year after a painful 2010 saw sales of onshore turbines plummet.

An estimated 1,800 megawatts worth of new onshore and offshore turbines will be installed in 2011 in Germany, up from 1,550 MW last year, the German Wind Energy Federation -- BWE -- said in figures released Wednesday.

This would constitute a much-needed turnaround from 2010, when two unusually long winters and the aftereffects of the financial crisis caused new installations to drop by 19 percent compared to the previous year.

"This was clearly below our forecasts and has really disappointed us," BWE President Hermann Albers said at a news conference Wednesday in Berlin.

While the 2011 forecast would translate into only modest growth in the onshore sector, companies bank on a rapidly expanding offshore market, Thorsten Herdan, the head of the German Engineering Federation unit VDMA Power Systems, said at the same news conference. Installations of offshore turbines will almost triple to 300 MW in 2011, Herdan said.

The German wind industry is among the world's leading, with companies including Enercon, Siemens Wind Power, Nordex and REPower selling turbines all over the globe. Exports accounted for 75 percent of the roughly $8.2 billion in sales the German wind energy industry generated in 2010, Herdan said.

While this shows that German-made products remain in high demand, it's also a sign that the German market, with an installed capacity of 27,214 MW, is nearing saturation.

The industry thus banks on repowering, the replacement of old turbines with more powerful devices, as a future growth factor at home. More than 9,500 turbines would qualify for repowering in 2015, unlocking "potential investments of $55 billion," Albers said Wednesday.

Yet those are the more optimistic figures. For now, German companies bank on offshore growth along Europe's coastlines.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday confirmed plans to invest $13.5 billion in 600 turbines off the country's Atlantic coast. Britain, Germany and countries in Scandinavia have earmarked billions of dollars for new offshore projects.

Germany's Siemens and Denmark's Vestas are among the few companies offering offshore turbines. They're in an excellent position to equip the booming sector. General Electric from the United States is planning to launch its offshore turbine within the next two years.

In the onshore market, China is becoming the major player on the block. China's total capacity of wind turbine installations increased 62 percent over the course of 2010 to 41,800 MW, the American Wind Energy Association said recently. The Germans, for example Nordex and Siemens Wind Power, which are already present in China, are eager to grab a greater share of the growing market.

Several large European and U.S. wind turbine manufacturers have a presence in China, including GE, Vestas and Gamesa of Spain. While they controlled most of the market five years ago, they are now faced with increasingly fierce competition from domestic suppliers.

"There is potential for further growth in Asia, where 'made in Germany' has an excellent reputation," Herdan said.

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