Germans to profit from British wind boom

Jan. 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM
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BERLIN, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Britain's multibillion-dollar offshore wind adventure is great news for two German companies: Siemens and Repower are the only companies producing turbines for farms at sea, but several others are poised to enter this lucrative emerging market.

Last week Britain awarded 16 European utilities licenses to develop wind farms off the British coastlines. The $160 billion program is designed to make the country the world's leader in offshore wind energy.

Siemens and REpower, both based in Germany, are the only firms producing turbines specifically designed to withstand the harsh conditions at sea.

Fritz Vahrenholt, head of RWE's renewable energy daughter firm Innogy, has said the market would benefit from more players.

RWE, the German energy giant, has a hand in several offshore wind farms in the North Sea and is part of a consortium that was awarded licenses in Britain.

For its North Sea farm, RWE has chosen REpower's 6 megawatt model, the largest on the market when it comes to generation capacity. Siemens' biggest turbine has a 3.6 MW capacity.

Danish green energy giant Vestas, once the world's leader in offshore turbines, terminated the business when problems with the blades surfaced. Lured by the booming British business, the Danes are eager to re-enter the market, observers say. German business daily Handelsblatt reports that General Electric is also mulling an entry into the offshore turbine market.

The British government expects 70,000 jobs to be created by its offshore wind program, which is key to meet Britain's climate-protection targets. London has pledged to satisfy 15 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2020.

According to the British Wind Energy Association, the projects will require "a dramatic increase in manufacturing capacity for offshore wind, such as turbines, foundations, offshore electrics and installation vessels."

Essen-based RWE employs 65,000 people and is Germany's second-largest energy company. Through its daughter Innogy, RWE has in the past year been eager to portray itself as a major investor in renewable energy projects. Its overall carbon footprint remains substantial due to numerous coal-fired power plants it runs across Europe.

Germany-based turbine maker REpower is owned to 90 percent by Indian competitor Suzlon.

Vestas is the world's largest turbine maker. It employs nearly 21,000 people and has more than 39,000 wind turbines installed all over the world.

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