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Wind energy equipment suppliers face order rush as demand picks up  

SYDNEY: Wind energy equipment suppliers are getting a rush of orders they may have difficulty filling amid increased demand for renewable energy power, said an executive at a unit of Allianz AG, Europe’s biggest insurer.
By the end of September announced orders this year for wind turbines will be equal to the total number of orders for the whole of 2005, Bill Calcraft, managing director of UK-based Allianz Specialised Investments, which invests in renewable energy, said at the Global Windpower 2006 conference in Adelaide, Australia.
Higher oil prices, as well as state subsidies and incentives for wind energy in Europe, the US and Asia are helping buoy demand and boost investment in wind energy generation.
Global wind energy markets expanded by 41% last year, leading to $14bn of investment in new generating equipment, the Global Wind Energy Council estimates.
“So far this year and by the end of the third quarter, announced orders are equal to those in all of 2005,” Calcraft said. “Can the industry deliver that capacity?”
Increased demand for wind energy generation equipment has boosted prices in the last 12 to 18 months, said Peter O’Connell, chief executive officer of Babcock & Brown Wind Partners, an Australian-based wind energy producer. The proposed ending at the end of 2007 of a tax credit in the US for utilities that use wind generation has buoyed demand, he said.
The US added a record 2,431MW of wind energy generation capacity last year, the most of any country worldwide, boosting capacity by more than 35% to 6,725MW, the Brussels-based wind energy council estimates. Another 3,000MW may be added this year, it said.
Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the biggest maker of wind turbines, is expanding manufacturing outside Europe to help alleviate the supply shortage, said Thorbjorn Rassmussen, president of Vestas’ Asia-Pacific unit. The company will next year set up regional research centers in Singapore and Chennai, India and is in talks with major suppliers to shift manufacturing capacity to India and China, he said.
“We are really struggling with our capacities around the world,” Rassmussen said. “We have a huge concentration in Europe. We’re going to change that picture but you don’t do it overnight.”
Siemens AG’s wind power unit has been increasing capacity to meet orders, said Henning Kruse, senior export manager of Brande, Denmark-based Siemens Wind Power. The increase in orders “puts a lot of pressure on the organization,” Kruse said.
The record growth last year in the US wind energy industry may have been even higher were it not for equipment shortages, Stephen Miner, a director of the American Wind Energy Association, said on Wednesday in an interview.
The US boosted cumulative wind power capacity by more than 35% last year, the association estimates.
A scarcity of major components for wind turbines such as gear-boxes and bearings is a “major concern,” said Sarvesh Kumar, director of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association. In the last year or 18 months prices for wind power generators increased for the first time in many years, he said.
The growth in the wind energy industry will probably slow, given supply constraints tend to emerge in any industry expanding at more than 10% to 20%, said Greg Bourne, chief executive officer of the Australian unit of WWF, an environmental group.
The solar power industry is experiencing similar constraints with a lack of silicon manufacturing capacity, he said.
Allianz estimates almost 8,000MW of wind turbine orders were announced this year to September, compared with about 8,500MW for all of 2005. The 2005 figure was already more than twice the 2003 and 2004 totals of about 3,600MW, and compares with about 1,500MW of orders announced in 2002, according to a slide shown by Calcraft at the conference. ““ Bloomberg


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