Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Producers strain to supply growing wind power market.

Producers strain to supply growing wind power market.

AFP, 3 December 2006 - There is an inexhaustible supply of wind to drive their blades, but materials needed to make wind turbines are limited and the industry fears it will fail to keep pace with growing demand for the clean energy source.

"We do whatever we can but it's impossible to increase our (production) capacity overnight," a spokesman for the Danish group Vestas told AFP.

"There is a gap between industrial capacity and demand, and it will take several years before we can fill the gap. Don't expect miracles," Peter Wenzel Kruze added.

Vestas is the world leader in wind turbine manufacturing.

Benefiting from spiralling oil prices and the popularity of green energy sources, wind farms -- mostly on land but also offshore -- have in recent years become an increasingly common sight throughout Europe.

Wind-generated power now accounts for three percent of Europe's electricity requirements, according to the European Wind Energy Agency (EWEA). In Denmark the figure is 20 percent, eight percent in Germany and seven percent in Spain. EWEA hopes 22 percent of European electricity requirements will be filled by wind power by 2030.

Between 1995 and 2005 the amount of electricity produced using wind power grew on average by 32 percent per year in Europe while the number of wind turbines rose by around 22 percent.

Similar growth in the sector has been recorded in the United States where wind power production expanded by 36 percent in 2005 with the help of federal funding.

A number of countries have announced plans for major wind farm programmes both on land and at sea. The rush to wind power has proved a boon for the industry in the shape of lucrative contracts but it has also caused problems for companies as they struggle to meet multiplying deadlines.

Almost all producers have been affected by the problem for some months, according to a spokeswoman at German energy group REpower.

While there was no immediate impact on the group's results, she conceeded that future production capacity could be reduced if delays in deliveries of wind turbine parts continued.

EWEA, representing 80 percent of the wind power industry, acknowledges that delays in wind turbine deliveries, especially turbine motors, are on the increase, but does not wish to overstate the situation.

"I can not say it's a problem to have very strong demand ... it's quite a normal phenomenom in industry. It takes time for both manufacturers and suppliers to adjust production," EWEA president Christian Kjaer said.

Robert Gleitz, wind product chief at General Electric, explains that current supply problems have not affected major component parts of wind turbines such as blades, plinths or turbine pods.

Gleitz does however say that turbines ordered today would not be delivered until 2008 or possibly 2009.

"The industry is adapting and companies are in the process of reorganising their entire supply chain," EWEA spokeswoman Isabelle Valentiny said. Firms are encouraging suppliers to greatly increase investment and are seeking more long term strategic framework agreements with suppliers and customers.

"The message is: okay, we believe in this (wind energy), you can invest," Wenzel Kruze said.

EWEA added that the price of wind power has fallen steadily in the last 20 years.

"(Wind energy) technology produces 180 times the amount of electricity that it produced in the 80's. It has matured and can compete with other forms of energy," Valentiny said.



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