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Wind Turbine Supply Will Catch Up with Demand - Panel

Nov 6, 2007 - Wind Energy Weekly

Global supply and demand for wind turbines and related components should begin to balance out in 2009 and into 2010, although the industry value chain is still significantly hindered by policy uncertainty, said panelists in a session that tackled supply chain issues at the AWEA 2007 Wind Energy Fall Symposium.

Kristopher Wiljanen of Emerging Energy Research identified four phases in the process by which supply will catch up with demand within the U.S. market, with the industry currently in approximately the second phase. The first of the stages, increased U.S. turbine assembly and blade production, he noted, is already well under way. Next to come on the continuum is increased component supply, followed by more choices becoming available (both technology and other offerings such as contract terms). The last phase, he said, will be increased cost competition.

“The ramp-up time for components takes a couple of years,” said Wiljanen.

Progress on the first phase is significant, he noted; in addition to General Electric and Mitsubishi, both of which had a presence in the U.S. in 2004, just three years later, Gamesa, Siemens, Clipper Windpower, Acciona, Vestas, and DeWind, all are operating in the U.S.

But the supply chain nevertheless is confronted with great challenges, particularly in the policy arena. Question marks surrounding possible passage of a renewable electricity standard, along with the repeated short-term extensions of the production tax credit (PTC) create a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the marketplace, noted Parthiv Amin, president of Winergy Drive Systems Corp. Regarding passage of an RES and long-term PTC, Amin said, “I would urge everyone in this room to get involved in it.”

David Ferebee, Lonestar Transportation Co., Inc.’s vice president of sales, and Peter Greve Jensen, who handles supply chain logistics for BaltShip, offered a transportation perspective for the session. “I think [transportation] is one of the biggest issues facing the industry today and probably one of the least understood,” said Ferebee. All components must move by truck at some point, he noted. Turbines and components, meanwhile, keep getting bigger, demanding more and more of transportation companies, which must contend with ever-changing regulations from dozens of different states, all the while trying to devise the means to carry equipment that keeps increasing in size.