15 May 2007 - 09:34
  • News Code: 104677

The wind-industry boom of the last several years has expanded, creating other new markets and technology niches.

Beside turbines, their manufacturers, developers and operators, a whole field of wind technology is growing. Companies on display at the European Wind Energy Exhibition in Milan, Italy, demonstrate the expansive reach of wind power.

Before the turbine is even a thought, there are companies such as Germany-based WindCheck and Denmark-based Lahmeyer International that research wind-resource potential and possible sites. Ecofys, based in the Netherlands, specializes in modeling potential impacts on birds and bats.

One research project at the University of Glamorgan in Wales, titled “UK Wind power: Sustaining sympathy, avoiding apathy and negotiating negativity,“ looks at how to mitigate opposition to wind farms.

Once a project is planned, there are a growing number of companies eager to invest in wind projects. Companies are being formed especially to work as middlemen for large investors and small start-ups.

Demand has outpaced supply, and investment is growing even faster, said David Jones, chief executive of Renewable Energy Group, Allianz Specialized Investments Ltd. in the United Kingdom.

“There’s too much capital and too few good projects,“ Jones said.

New companies are cropping up, and existing ones are entering the wind market as suppliers.

LM Glasfiber is the world’s leading supplier of wind-turbine blades and the only one that operates globally. The Denmark-based company is working to develop new technology that improves efficiency and extends the service life of the turbine and blades.

Wind-power production forecasts, lightning-effect studies and repair services, lifts, gearboxes and bearings are all manufactured and supplied by companies separate from the developers. Companies specializing in installation of onshore or offshore turbines--or both--are also growing.

Some of the latest technologies in wind turbines can be measured by how big they are. Siemens’ Wind Power Generation produces the largest available, at 6 megawatts, which is used primarily in offshore projects. As the turbines that are developed and produced get larger, they also get more efficient, said Martin Olesen, manager of communications for Siemens Wind Power Generation.

Germany-based REpower Systems, the producer of the largest blades--61.5 meters--and the second-largest turbines--5 MW--has a helicopter landing pad for maintenance, said Daniela Puttenat, head of corporate communications and public relations for REpower.

REpower is testing three of its large 5 MW turbines--one onshore and two in the Scottish Sea, 44 meters deep and 25 meters off the coast. That is the farthest and deepest a turbine has ever been installed.

Aside from standard horizontal-access turbines, there have been advances in other alternative types. Ropatec’s vertical-axis turbine, which it has been producing since the 1970s, is now developed so it is one of the only turbines to be able to withstand harsh conditions, including high-speed winds and strong gusts. Not only does the turbine produce electricity, it also generates heat.

Clipper Windpower Plc. announced Monday its new 2.5 MW turbine was the first large turbine to receive Germanischer Lloyd certification for operation in extreme cold climate conditions.

“With the ability to survive extreme cold climate conditions, including nonoperating temperatures of -40 degrees centigrade, the Liberty turbine offers a new level of confidence for demanding cold climate regions, including Canada, the northern United States and northern-most European and Asian countries,“ said Amir Mikhail, Clipper’s senior vice president and chief technology engineer.

Insurance for wind turbines is a growing commodity and so is decommissioning, especially in the niche offshore market.

Even more businesses are expected to be on display at the American Wind Energy Association Conference and Exhibition in Los Angeles in June. There are already more than 3,000 people registered and more than 200 vendors signed up to attend.



News Code 104677

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