Navigant Research Blog

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Trends in the US Market in 2016

— April 28, 2017

The data for year 2016 wind installations has been published in Navigant Research’s annual World Wind Energy Market Update report. There are an endless number of observations, trends, and key data points, but this blog focuses on one area: wind turbine manufacturer market share trends in the US market.

How Did Vestas Manage to Overtake GE Energy in Its Domestic Home Market?

Of the 8.2 GW built and connected in 2016 in the United States, Denmark-based Vestas surpassed US-based GE Energy for the first time in the era of the modern wind industry. Vestas took 45% market share to GE Energy’s 41%. This is somewhat surprising given GE Energy’s long-standing domestic advantage over its foreign competitors. One reason for Vestas’ success in the United States is that it has made major investments in localizing its manufacturing and supply chain in the country. From a domestic content perspective, Vestas is now comparable to GE—if not stronger—since GE has shifted in recent years to importing gearboxes from China while Vestas sources primarily from a supplier manufacturing in the state of Georgia.

Vestas also centralized its blade and tower manufacturing and nacelle assembly in Colorado, which is in the middle of the windy central plains corridor of the United States. GE outsources blades and towers to manufacturers located throughout the central plains. However, its nacelle assembly for the United States is primarily done in Pensacola, Florida, requiring higher transportation costs to get the nacelles to the central plains states of the United States, where most wind capacity is being added. In a cutthroat competitive turbine pricing environment, the additional costs of transport can win or lose contracts.

Why Are Other European Wind Turbine Manufacturers Not Getting Higher Market Share in the United States?

The remaining market share left to other foreign manufacturers is minimal, with Siemens at 9%, Gamesa at 3.5%, and a catchall “others” category that primarily represents Nordex at 1.4%. Siemens’ market share has dropped, even though it has made significant manufacturing and supply chain commitments to the United States. Yet, there is a view among corners of the wind industry that Siemens has not made enough investments in its geared onshore turbine platform to remain competitive, leading to fewer onshore sales—especially in the United States, where there is a preference for geared turbines.

Some of the numbers bear this out. In 2016, Siemens’ 805 MW installed in the United States represented 8.9% market share. By contrast, in 2012, Siemens installed 2,628 MW in the United States and captured 23% market share—ahead of Vestas with 11% share, according to Navigant Research’s wind capacity database. This strong share was primarily from sales of the SWT2.3-108 machine. Four years later and 100% of installed capacity in the United States was from the same SWT2.3-108 unit.

For the others, such as Nordex, Senvion, and Gamesa, those companies have not had as much localized manufacturing and supply chain activity as Vestas, GE, and Siemens, which makes it more difficult to compete on cost. Gamesa initially localized its supply chain in Pennsylvania, and it should be lauded for its efforts to revitalize blue collar and unionized factory jobs in that state. However, it may not have been a strategically wise decision to locate far away from the higher growth markets of the US central plains.

For a wealth of global and country-level wind market data and analysis, see this year’s annual World Wind Energy Market Update report from Navigant Research.


US Wind Market Installs 8.2 GW in 2016

— February 22, 2017

The United States had a strong year for wind energy capacity installation, with 6,478 MW commissioned in 4Q 2016. This capped off a total of 8,203 MW total for the year, according to the 4Q 2016 market data recently released by the American Wind Energy Association.

In 2Q 2016, Navigant Research forecast that final 2016 capacity additions were likely to be 8,200 MW, representing its most accurate annual capacity forecast to date. Navigant Research forecasts that there will be 45 GW of total new wind installations between 2017 and 2023, assuming there are no changes to the existing Production Tax Credit (PTC) phaseout timeline.

Key Takeaways of 2016

Total cumulative wind energy capacity installed in the United States now stands at 82,183 MW, with more than 52,000 wind turbines operating in 40 states. Nineteen states commissioned a total of 47 projects during the fourth quarter. Texas led with 1,790 MW, followed by Oklahoma (1,192 MW), Kansas (615 MW), North Dakota (603 MW), and Iowa (551 MW).

Texas continues to lead the nation with 20,321 MW of installed capacity, the first state to pass 20,000 MW. This success is thanks to a combination of energy demand, strong wind resources, a relatively easy development environment, and Texas’s proactive and massive expansion of transmission capacity. In 2016, Oklahoma surpassed California to become the third-ranked state in the nation with over 6,600 MW of installed capacity, and Kansas surpassed Illinois as the fifth-ranked state with more than 4,400 MW.

The United States also commissioned its first offshore wind project during the fourth quarter, the 30 MW Block Island wind project off the coast of Rhode Island. Among other offshore developments was an auction conducted just before the end of the year and won by Norway’s oil giant Statoil with its offer to pay the US Department of the Interior $42.5 million to lease an area of ocean off Long Island, New York. The space could be used to support more than 1 GW of offshore wind, providing validation of offshore wind’s future in the United States.

Market Developments

There are now 10,432 MW under construction and 7,913 MW in advanced development in the US wind market, a combined total of 18,344 MW of wind capacity. The industry also qualified significant additional project capacity for the full value of the PTC at year-end through safe harbor and physical construction without finalizing project capacities. This means substantial wind project capacity has until the end of 2020 to be commissioned.

Out of the 8,203 MW installed in 2016, Vestas (43%) and GE Renewable Energy (42%) led in market share, followed by Siemens (10%), Gamesa (4%), and Nordex USA (1%). Goldwind, Vensys, and Vergnet each composed less than 1% share. This is the first time in history that Denmark-based Vestas surpassed US-based General Electric in a given installation year. One likely reason is Vestas’ major commitment to siting its supply chain in centrally located Colorado, providing potential cost reductions relative to General Electric (which assembles its nacelles in Pensacola, Florida, requiring further transport to the major centrally located state markets).

Project developers signed 816 MW of power purchase agreements (PPAs) during 4Q 2016, contributing to a total of 4,040 MW of PPAs signed during 2016. Utilities and rural electric cooperatives represent 56% of total project capacity contracted (2,266 MW) during 2016. For the year, non-utility purchasers had 39% of the remaining capacity contracted (1,574 MW). Of the 8,203 MW commissioned during 2016, 67% of that capacity has a PPA or Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act contract in place. The remaining capacity is under utility or direct ownership (12%), has a merchant hedge contract in place (12%), or is fully merchant (9%).


Wind Energy Surpasses Coal Generation in Europe

— February 15, 2017

TurbineEurope is widely considered to be the birthplace of the modern wind energy industry and its corporate and technology home base. Installation rates announced by WindEurope for 2016 show continued and stable momentum, with 12.5 GW installed across 28 EU member states (10,923 MW onshore and 1,567 MW offshore). This was 3% less than the new installations in 2015, which is less a downturn than a reflection that 2015 was a record installation year as German projects raced to get installed before wind incentives became less generous. Activity in 2016 otherwise shows stable installation rates expected for the continent.

Growing Role of Wind and Renewables

Total wind capacity in Europe now stands at 153.7 GW, and wind energy covered 10.4% of Europe’s electricity needs in 2016. Germany installed the most new wind power capacity last year with 44% of the EU total. Five member states—France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and Lithuania—had record years. France’s record was due to previously stalled wind incentives back in place for 2016 commissioning; Ireland saw a rush to connect projects before incentives are rolled back; and the Netherlands, Finland, and Lithuania all hit records with modest capacity additions outweighing previous small installation rates.

Renewables altogether accounted for 86% of new EU power plant installations in 2016, representing 21.1 GW of a 24.5 GW total. Investment in new onshore and offshore wind farms reached a record €27.5 billion (~$29.2 billion). Offshore wind investments rose 39% year over year to €18.2 billion (~$19.3 billion), while onshore investments were down 29% at €9.3 billion (~$9.9 billion).

Offshore wind represented 13% of the annual EU wind energy market installed capacity with 1,567 MW of new gross capacity connected to the grid in 2016. This is a 48.4% decrease compared with 2015, which was an exceptional year for offshore wind installation and grid connection due to delays in Germany getting resolved and 3.7 GW being installed. See Navigant’s Offshore Wind Market Update for detailed analysis of the market and supportive policies by country.

Offshore wind is a key growth area for wind in Europe, while onshore wind remains largely flat and is decreasing in some markets. This is the case in the United Kingdom, where onshore incentives were scrapped in early 2016 but retained for offshore. Similarly, incentives in Germany were reduced for onshore wind while being maintained for offshore wind.

Coal No Longer King

Also notable is that the installed wind capacity of 153.7 GW now has wind overtaking coal (152 GW) as the second largest form of power generation in Europe. In 2016, wind accounted for 51% of all new power installations in the region, and renewable energy accounted for 86% of all new EU power installations (21.1 GW of a total 24.5 GW of new power capacity). Solar had a strong showing with 6,700 MW, or 27.4% of 2016 installed capacity.

Conventional power sources such as fuel oil and coal continue to decommission more capacity than they install. Despite having decommissioned more than 2 GW this year, net gas-fired generation capacity continues to remain positive. Natural gas power plants saw 3,115 MW installed, representing 12.7% of all 2016 power generation capacity.

Since 2000, the net growth of wind power (142.6 GW), solar PV (101.2 GW), and natural gas (98.5 GW) capacity has coincided with the net reduction in fuel oil (down 37.6 GW), coal (down 37.3 GW), and nuclear (down 15.5 GW). The share of wind power in total installed power capacity has increased from 6% in 2005 to 16.7% in 2016, overtaking coal as the second largest form of power generation capacity in the EU and remaining first among renewables. Over the same period, renewables increased their share from 24% of total power capacity to 46%.


Wind Turbine Blade Strategy: Building In-House or Out?

— January 26, 2017

Wind and SolarThe continuing cascade of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the wind sector has primarily centered on a few high profile wind turbine OEMs, but it has also been accompanied by a few blade manufacturer acquisitions. Wind turbine OEMs are continually revaluating whether to build blades in-house, outsource them, or juggle a careful blend of the two sourcing strategies. There has been a trend over the past few years toward more outsourcing arrangements. However, two recent acquisitions of independent blade manufacturers are raising the question of whether the trend toward more outsourcing is slowing.

The largest of the deals was in October, when US industrial conglomerate GE inked a $1.65 billion contract to acquire LM Wind Power, the world’s largest independent wind blade manufacturer. LM’s annual blade manufacturing capacity is estimated by Navigant at around 6,300 MW. A much smaller deal announced in November saw German turbine OEM Senvion acquiring European blade design and manufacturing company Euros for an undisclosed cash sum.

Reversing Course?

So is the era of blade outsourcing reversing? In short, no. Instead, it is a continued validation of the “make and buy” sourcing that balances both in-house manufacturing with outsourcing. Over the past few years, wind turbine companies have increasingly gone down this path because it brings the advantages of both sourcing options instead of being wedded to the limitations of one. Having in-house capacity guarantees supply and ensures that increasingly sophisticated blades are designed and manufactured strictly to the wind turbine OEM’s needs. Outsourcing can give turbine vendors more flexibility in using globally located independent manufacturers while avoiding the need to build new factories to serve all global markets.

GE bringing blade production in-house does not refute or reverse the trend toward outsourcing. Rather, it rebalances GE’s previous 100% outsourcing to an OEM that can make and buy. It still plans to source from the independent vendors—although inevitably at lower rates now that it can satisfy in-house needs from LM under its ownership. Senvion already chose a route of make & buy, and the Euros acquisition just brings more expertise in-house at a time when sophisticated large blade rotors are so important to turbine design.

Furthermore, there has been well-reasoned speculation that GE’s LM acquisition may have been a preemptive defensive move to prevent Siemens—which has been on its own M&A spree —from acquiring LM. Siemens has and still produces all blades 100% in-house, but the company’s acquisition of Gamesa, which makes and buys, may have ignited a new interest in acquiring more blade production capabilities and options. Having more options and controlling interests in more companies would provide more solutions to the complicated blade sourcing strategy of the larger merged company as Siemens/Gamesa turbine designs and technologies are increasingly harmonized.

A Significant Market

Blades are costly and increasingly strategically important parts of the wind turbine supply chain. Blade costs are typically around 22%-24% of the overall cost of the wind turbine, or between $90,000 to $140,000 per blade, depending on size, materials, and other particulars, according Navigant’s recent Wind Turbine Blade Technology & Supply Chain Assessment report. The global wind blade market is significant, with between $6.6 billion and $7.7 billion in revenue expected annually from 2016 to 2025.

Going forward, there likely will still be some shake-ups among turbine OEMs and blade and other subcomponent suppliers, and some strategic moves may be made to in-source previous outsourcing. In general, however, wind turbine OEMs are expected to continue on a trajectory of blending in-house production with cost-effective flexible outsourcing.


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