A struggle of super powers The manufacturing industry involved in wind power is now coming full circle and has accumulated a formidable body of expertise. In the early days of the technology, the large energy companies skirmished with wind power but withdrew fairly soon, leaving the field open to small new companies specialising in wind or developing parallel product divisions with existing capabilities, as was the case with other renewable technologies.
Vestas led the field, but its lead is continuing to be eroded by Chinese manufacturers. The top three Chinese manufacturers jumped positions in the global wind rankings. Despite its early start in wind power, the US did not gain the strength of the European industry outside its own territory, although it is now making more progress in overseas markets, with the rise of GE Wind. Many of the well- established European companies have subsidiaries all over the world, including the United States.
European manufacturers have been fighting back. The European wind industry, the European Commission and EU member states had launched a 10 year research and development programme, the European Wind Intiative (EWI) in 2010, to maintain Europe’s leadership in onshore and offshore wind. A budget of EUR 600 million a year, or EUR 6 billion by 2020, has been proposed to achieve this goal and other strategic objectives set by the EWI: making onshore wind the most competitive energy source by 2020; making offshore the most competitive by 2030, and using wind energy to meet 20% of electricity demand by 2030 and 50% by 2050. Half of the proposed funds will be met by European wind producers. While these targets are the subject of constant revision, one thing has become clear and that is that the Wind sector is most definitely a growth area. As we are now almost halfway through this development period, we continue to see the rise of the major chinese manufacturers; but the big European producers are still putting up a formidible fight.
Currently, both US and EU manufacturers are winning the offshore race. Based on projected launch dates of turbines, European players are expected to continue to dominate the offshore sector as its dominance in onshore turbines wanes.