Navigant Research Blog

Wind Turbine Manufacturers Shuffle Market Share in a Record 2014

— May 20, 2015

Each spring, Navigant’s annual tally of previous-year wind turbine installation market shares are a closely watched barometer of how all the major wind turbine vendors are progressing in the global marketplace. This analysis is a key part of the 20th annual World Wind Energy Market Update 2015, produced by BTM Consult, a part of Navigant.

Last year was a high water mark for the industry overall, with 25,474 wind turbines installed, representing a record of 51,230 MW. Cumulative installed capacity climbed to 372 GW by the end of the year. China again held the title of the world’s largest annual market with 23.3 GW of new wind power installed in 2014, and Germany remained a distant second with 5.1 GW, followed by the United States with 4.9 GW.

The revival of the U.S. and German markets caused a significant shake-up in the rankings of the world’s top 10 wind turbine suppliers in 2014:

  • Vestas remained the No. 1 supplier after strong sales both onshore and offshore.
  • Siemens jumped two positions to second in 2014 due to strong sales in the offshore sector and the good shape of the German market. Interestingly, had more planned 2014 offshore wind been fully commissioned and grid-connected, Siemens would have challenged Vestas’ position for the first time in wind power history.
  • GE Energy recovered after a renewal of wind tax credit support in its home market in the United States and rose from a ranking of fifth to third in a technical draw with Goldwind. Only 31 MW separate the companies in 2014.
  • Goldwind dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 despite its strong performance at home. Its small footprint outside China means it did not benefit from the good year in Germany, Brazil, and the United States.
  • Enercon moved down two places to No. 5, as it relies largely on the growth of its home market Germany, in which it supplied nearly 40% of the turbines installed in 2014.
  • Suzlon Group rose one position to No. 6, supported by its then subsidiary Senvion (its divestment has just been finalized) and its operations in India. Navigant Research expects that with the division of the group, both Senvion and the remaining part of Suzlon will drop from the top 10 rankings in 2015.
  • United Power moved up one position as the world’s No. 7 supplier on the rush to install capacity in China in 2014.
  • Gamesa had a strong performance in the Americas and India, which allowed it to remain as one of the top 10 suppliers globally, coming in eighth place for 2014 installations, down from sixth in 2013.
  • Ming Yang remained in ninth position in 2014, pulled by the growth of its home market, China.
  • Envision crept into last place in the top 10 supplier list in 2014 thanks to the spectacular growth in its home market, becoming the fourth Chinese manufacturer in the top 10 chart. In 2013, Envision was No. 11.
  • Nordex had a record year, installing nearly 1.5 GW, up from over 1.2 GW in 2013, when it made it into the last spot in the top 10 group. However, it slipped out of the top 10 ranking based on the huge volume of wind plants installed by the other major vendors, particularly those in China. The next five in line after the top 10, in addition to Nordex, are all Chinese: XEMC, Sewind (Shanghai Electric), Dongfang, and CSIC. Acciona and Alstom are ranked a distant 23rd and 24th.

For more information, see World Wind Energy Market Update 2015.

 

Vestas, Mitsubishi Settle on Offshore Turbine Design

— February 24, 2015

In 2014, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) formed a joint venture with Vestas called MHI Vestas Offshore Wind. The strategy behind that joint venture is now substantially clearer. MHI’s decision to stop the commercialization of its 7 MW SeaAngel offshore wind turbine, to focus instead on the Vestas V164-8.0 MW turbine under MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, makes sense given Vestas’ expertise in the offshore market and the need to move forward without confusion or conflict between the two turbine platforms.

Technology-wise, the SeaAngel’s novel Digital Displacement Transmission Technology (DDT) looked like the more advanced drivetrain system. It employs a sophisticated series of hydraulic pumps, values, and motors to transfer the energy from the constantly varying rotor speed to a fixed speed generator, without the use of a gearbox. No other wind turbine employs a hydraulic drivetrain like this.

That novel technology, however, adds uncertainty to the construction and operation of offshore wind farms.

Risk Avoidance

The increased construction and turbine servicing costs and associated risks for offshore wind increase the rate of return that investors expect to up to 12% compared to an onshore wind farm’s 7% to 9% in developed markets. Once you add the risk of employing a completely new transmission technology system, you likely outweigh the benefits offered by the new drivetrain design. The joint venture with Vestas provides access to a similarly sized turbine based on a proven and more conventional, medium speed geared technology, eliminating the added risk.

Although Vestas’ turbine is also new in the market, the company’s offshore turbine reliability has dramatically improved since 2004, when it had to replace the transformers and generators in all 81 of its then new V80 machines at Horns Rev offshore wind farm. Much refinement and advancement specific to offshore has been achieved by Vestas and its peers.

No Confusion

It’s also important to send a clear signal to the market that the Vestas V164-8.0 turbine is the primary turbine offering of the joint venture, without a separate Mitsubishi-branded product offered outside or within the joint venture. Although the SeaAngel turbine will disappear as a stand-alone brand, testing of the hydraulic technology will continue.

Onshore testing of the full-size 7 MW turbine officially began on February at a test center in the United Kingdom for validation of the drivetrain design. A similar hydraulic-powered turbine may be installed later in 2015 in Japan on a floating platform,  depending on the results from the U.K. tests.

Ultimately, the aim of the effort is to focus on refinement and validation of the hydraulic drivetrain for possible future use under the MHI Vestas joint venture. The floating platform may, in coming years, become part of the joint venture’s offerings as well. For now, though, the V164-8.0 turbine using proven Vestas technology is marching out to sea, having recently landed its first order of 32 units for the 258 MW Burbo Bank Extension project on the west coast of the United Kingdom in the Irish Sea. Hiring has just begun to build the 80 meter turbine blades.

Roberto Labastida contributed to this post.

 

Intellectual Property Battles Roil the Wind Power Industry

— February 11, 2015

Wind turbine vendors vigorously pursue intellectual property (IP) advantages in technology and ruthlessly defend them to maintain an edge over their competitors. The 2010 clash between GE and Mitsubishi over low-voltage ride-through and variable speed operation reportedly caused Mitsubishi to start sweeping its cavernous exhibit booth at trade shows, on the lookout for electronic surveillance devices planted by rivals. In another example, IP battles between Kenetech and German supplier ENERCON—the world’s third-largest wind turbine vendor by market share in 2013—resulted in ENERCON abandoning the U.S. market entirely.

One of the latest patent fights to spill into the headlines is between ENERCON and Siemens, over so-called de-rated operation. Who will win this round is anyone’s guess, but it’s another example of the rapidly advancing technology that continues to improve the performance, efficiency, and grid-friendly capabilities of wind turbines.

Slowdown, Not Shutdown

De-rated operation is the ability of a wind turbine or an entire wind plant to operate below its maximum capacity during times of high wind speed. Traditionally, when wind turbines reach their thresholds for maximum wind speed (around the 25 meter per second range), they will enter a cut-out and shutdown mode to protect the rotor, tower, and drivetrain from damaging stress. However, this process takes the electricity production offline, which can destabilize the broader power grid. As the commercial-scale deployment of wind turbines increases, this becomes a larger concern.  De-rating uses a range of control methods, from pitch control of blades to generator torque control to operate a wind turbine at below its maximum capacity.

For example, instead of a 2 MW wind turbine shutting off once it encounters its threshold cut-off wind speed parameters, it can reduce its output to (for example) 50% capacity, or 1 MW. This ensures that the wind plant remains operational, balancing the grid, and that kilowatt-hours continue to be produced instead of lost due to a full shutdown. There are also economic inefficiencies associated with stopping and restarting wind turbines that can be avoided by running at reduced load. This approach can be used to continue the operation and revenue generation of a wind turbine that is experiencing high operating temperatures within the turbine drivetrain, which can trip a control system that shuts everything down to prevent damage to the turbine. De-rating can allow power production to continue while temperatures are reduced to acceptable levels without entirely shutting the turbine down.

Storm Warning

ENERCON named its system Storm control; Siemens calls its system High Wind Ride Through (HWRT). GE Energy—likely as a way to avoid a similar IP battle with ENERCON—uses a de-rating approach that collectively de-rates all of the wind turbines at a wind plant. Spain’s Gamesa fought a 3-year battle to invalidate ENERCON’s patent, but lost in February 2014. Other vendors currently have or are bringing to market similar strategies—and all are certainly watching this patent fight closely from the sidelines.

 

Cape Wind Project Faces New Hurdles

— January 26, 2015

The prospects for near-term offshore wind take-off in the United States dimmed at the end of 2014, as the two utilities that had agreed to buy the electricity output of the 468 MW Cape Wind offshore project terminated their contracts.  The deals collapsed because the developers of Cape Wind had failed to reach key contractual milestones for project financing and construction launch by December 31, 2014.  National Grid signed a conditional power purchase agreement (PPA) in 2010 for 50% of the project output, and utility NSTAR agreed to purchase an additional 27.5% of the project’s output in 2012.

Saying they do not regard the terminations as valid, Cape Wind officials claim that force majeure provisions in the contracts stipulate that the milestones should have been extended.  Once again, the embattled project is in a legal dispute – and this one with potentially show-stopping consequences.  No offshore wind project in the United States can proceed without the price certainty of a PPA.  The outcome of these contract disputes could deal a fatal blow to a project that has been under development for 14 years.

Not in My Ocean

Planning for Cape Wind has taken so long partly because it was the first to navigate the unchartered waters of offshore wind development in a country that has little offshore wind policy and, as yet, no steel in the water.  Vociferous and well-funded opposition to the project’s location off Nantucket Island – a popular vacation destination for the affluent and influential – plagued it from the beginning.  The developers have been fighting a two-front battle against the challenges of offshore wind and the legal hurdles put up by anti-wind activists, coastal homeowners, and conservative billionaires.

The unfortunate reality is that, while the United States has excellent offshore wind potential along the Eastern seaboard and growing need for diversified and clean electricity generation, U.S.  policies are ill-suited to support offshore wind.  The production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) for renewable energy projects subsidize around 30% of the cost of building an offshore wind farm.  European countries like Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom provide similar levels of subsidy.  The major difference is that those incentives have been consistent and long-lived enough to support projects that are years in development.

Back and Forth

Unlike most developed countries, where tax law is permanent until changed through legislation or other decrees, many U.S. tax laws and incentives are increasingly enacted on a temporary basis.  This is partly because U.S. lawmakers count on industries like wind power to help finance their election campaigns.  As a result, tax favors are largely granted on a 1- or 2-year basis, resulting in boom and bust cycles (13 GW of wind installed in 2012 in the United States, for example, followed by 1 GW installed in 2013).  This also results in severe inefficiencies in manufacturing and human resources as factories lay off workers only to rehire again when incentives resume.

The onshore wind industry grudgingly copes with this back-and-forth because onshore wind can be built in 1- and 2-year cycles.  But offshore projects require much longer to develop and build.  Eventually, U.S. lawmakers may realize the benefits of offshore wind and provide suitable long-term incentives.  Unfortunately, that will likely come decades after more progressive countries in Europe – and now China – are far ahead in offshore wind.

 

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