GE Energy announced deals totaling 1.8 gigawatts for its newest workhorse, a 1.6-megawatt turbine, representing $3.6 billion in agreements. GE, the leading U.S. wind maker, expects to have at least 1,500 of the turbines installed by the end of 2013 in locations as disparate as Turkey, Brazil and North America.
GE also announced two other deals involving the 1.6-megawatt turbine. In one, six of them, along with two GE 1.5-megawatt turbines, will go to a 180-member citizen group in southwestern Iowa for a 12.6-megawatt community wind installation. In the second deal, DTE Energy, the major Michigan utility, will purchase 137 of the 1.6-megawatt turbines for installations at two locations that will total 220 megawatts of wind power capacity.
GE Energy’s high-tech operations and maintenance (O&M) services also previewed a refined version of its cutting-edge production-based O&M contract that promises owner-operators “if you don’t produce, you don’t pay.”
These moves show how the unwillingness of the current Congress to extend the wind industry's vital production tax credit (PTC) threatens GE Energy as much as the rest of the industry. Clearly, it is 1) looking to overseas markets, 2) looking to niche markets, and 3) preparing to nurture what is in place until a political atmosphere more favorable to domestic growth comes back around.
There was a steady stream of gawkers at Goldwind USA’s booth. Visitors could walk into a nacelle (the bus-sized box at the top of the turbine tower) and get an inside look at Goldwind's advanced direct drive system (the part of the machine that translates mechanical energy to electricity) and the company's newly redesigned rotor (the part at the front of the nacelle where the blades attach). Goldwind USA is a subsidiary of Goldwind China, the second biggest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. The U.S. division announced a small but important deal with All Earth Renewables to build four of its newly developed 2.5-megawatt turbines in Vermont. They represent the first U.S. test of the permanent magnet direct direct (PMDD) technology Goldwind upgraded when it went from a 1.5-megawatt design to the larger turbine.
A Goldwind USA official noted that while its parent company’s reach gives it options, the loss of the PTC is going to make it more difficult to continue sourcing the bulk of its supply chain domestically if U.S. suppliers are forced out of business by a PTC-loss-driven industry downturn.
Multinational power technology provider ABB highlighted a range of services it can now provide at the junction of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) through Ventyx, its recently acquired IT partner. Ventyx, which previously served utilities’ needs for forecasting of load and resources, siting, and valuation and integration of renewables, added a dimension of intelligence to ABB’s hardware that is expected to lead to a smarter grid more capable of including more wind and other renewables.
ABB also showed off its EcoDry transformers, BioTemp transformers, and Green-R-Pad distribution transformers, a range electronics hardware that offers wind builders the choice of lower water use and more environmentally friendly fluids and materials.
American Superconductor (AMSC) announced it had followed its recent deal with Indian turbine maker Inox for 50 two-megawatt-capable electrical control systems with a pair of non-business victories that could profoundly affect its business.
In one, AMSC secured exclusive rights to second-generation high temperature superconductor (HTS) materials that AMSC has already placed globally in transmission and distribution systems, wind turbines and other big motors.
AMSC also got a favorable decision from China’s Supreme People’s Court on its appeal of the smallest of the five legal actions it is pursuing against Sinovel, China’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer. The appeal represents only $200,000 of the $1.2 billion being contested, confided an AMSC executive, but the decision is important.
By granting the appeal, the Chinese court demonstrated an objectivity AMSC will need. Emails seem to prove that Sinovel proffered remuneration to a former AMSC employee for proprietary intellectual property (IP), received the stolen IP, and transferred it for use to a third party. A court in Austria, where the crime was committed, accepted the employee’s guilty plea and imprisoned him. The question is -- and the entire business world awaits the answer -- can AMSC, a Massachusetts company, get justice in Chinese courts?
At the Sinovel booth, GTM was told Sinovel respects both the U.S. and Chinese legal processes and will await the final verdict.