German wind power plant producers are increasingly looking to sell abroad as they run out of onshore sites in Germany and most offshore projects and upgrades are still years away, the VDMA engineering association said recently.
"The industry believes in exports because the exchange of old (German) plants for more powerful ones and the (domestic) offshore business will only pick up at the end of this decade," said Norbert Giese, chairman of the VDMA's wind power unit said in a joint statement with the BWE wind power association.
Wind power generation in Germany has leapt over the last decade to 14.609 megawatts (MW) last year from just 334 MW in 1993 and currently meets nearly six percent of power demand, making Germany the world's biggest wind power market, according to BWE figures.
With growth in new wind generation slowing in 2003, the share of exports from Germany's wind power industry averaged 23 percent last year, with some producers shipping half of their plants abroad, the statement said.
"We are optimistic of seeing a significant boost in exports and that the proportion of exports will reach the level of the machine and plant engineering industry of 70 percent in the medium term," said Giese.
Total industry sales from the construction of new plants as well as operation and maintenance were around 4.8 billion euros ($6.01 billion) in 2003, 1.3 billion more than in the year before, a BWE spokesman said. Domestic plant producers include the world's second-ranked Enercon GmbH, which is privately owned, Nordex and Repower. The global leader is Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems, which is due to take over loss-making Danish rival NEG Micon, the world's third biggest manufacturer.
Besides demand from western European countries, such as Spain, France and Great Britain, growing interest in wind power is likely to come from the eastern Europe, where a raft of countries are shaping up to join the European Union (EU) in May, the BWE said in 2003.
The new members, will be obliged to expand their share of renewable energies in overall power production in line with existing EU states. BWE said the rate of growth had slowed last year also partly because many projects were delayed due to the government's review of the German renewable energy law, which had created uncertainty in the industry, it said.
With the review now complete, VDMA said it sees Germany's installed wind power capacity to grow by around 2,500 MW this year. The German EEG renewable energy law guarantees above-market rates for power fed by wind plants into the grid. It is part of the government's strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say contributes to global warming. BWE said wind power saved an annual 22.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.