The wind has blown the way for one of the fastest growing industries in the world. ‘Clean’ business certainly seems to be big business. That’s partly down to the fact that up to 8,000 components are required for a wind turbine to function, requiring a lot of work, a lot of company’s involvement - and quite a bit of money.
Despite experiencing “phenomenal growth” in recent years – according to Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, 2013 saw a ‘dip’ in the sector with things becoming tougher.
And although Sawyer is optimistic that growth will return in 2014, “some of my European partners see flaws in my argument,” he told an audience at January’s World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Some of these European partners - Siemens, Acciona and Alstom representatives, were some of the panel-members joining in a discussion on the future of the wind industry.
Carmen Becerril, Chief International Officer of Spain’s Acciona is not as optimistic as Mr Sawyer as it is her belief that Europe will be “in a very flat position” in 2014. “This is because the company is committed to finishing all its wind farms before the end of the year, so that we have taxation support,” she further explains.
On the other hand, Acciona are working in India - “which we see as a good market - as well as South Africa,” Ms Becerril explains.
Europe may have 78 per cent of the world’s installed capacity but “South Africa are now tapping into generating electricity by wind,” says Dipolelo Elford, Director of WindLab South Africa.
“The problem in South Africa is a competitive bid. And that wind will continue to get good allocation to upscale the harnessing,” Ms Elford continues. She is hopeful however that 2014 will be a better year with “rapid development of technology” in South Africa. A political change may also be on the cards but it’s down to voters to decide in an election due this year.
Ms Elford is confident that the Africa Clean Energy Corridor - an interconnected corridor that will span eastern Africa, Cairo and Cape Town, will seek to harness the region’s renewable energy potential in wind, solar and geothermal energy. This initiative has been backed by 19 countries in order to meet a rising energy demand. In Africa today there are almost 600 million people who do not have the luxury of an electricity-supply which many of us take for granted.
South Africa, unlike the world-leaders in wind power capacity Germany which has an “increasing scarcity of good onshore sites” - does have onshore potential.
Markus Tacke, head of Wind Power Division at Siemens in Germany, foresees a “flattish market” beyond 2014. This is down to an increased number of installations in 2014 in the United States which have to be closely monitored.
“Let’s not forget the other renewables”, Mr Tacke insisted, adding: ““Wind power becomes competitive against other renewable energies in the US.” Despite this “mixed picture” he has good hopes for the Middle East.
Masdar’s Director of Clean Energy Bader Al Lamki’s thinks: “The growth pocket is really in the offshore market. London Array is performing well so far and demonstrating the capability of offshore wind,” he emphasises.
It’s a wise guess that Masdar’s involvement in the London Array means that Mr Al Lamki describes 2013 as having been “exceptional.” This is after all the largest offshore wind farm in the world with 175 turbines spinning to power much of the south-east of England. Last year Masdar worked on the delivery of this wind farm, as well as a 6MW wind farm in the Seychelles, and a 117MW wind farm in Jordan.
Mr Al Lamki says that there is a “founded optimism” for 2014. “The wind is still blowing. We must continue to try to harness this.” Yet, Mr Al Lamki says that for Masdar, 2014 will not be as exciting in terms of the number of megawatts into the grid – for that they look to 2015.
Alexis de Beaumont, Alstom Wind’s General Manager for the Middle East and Africa, told the audience in Abu Dhabi that there are a lot of developments that need to come into fruition. With a lot of new markets in Brazil – 2000GW awarded to Alstom in the last few years, a new supply chain has been established.
Mr Tacke said: “We all know that wind has a variability model. We are working on driving the wind as the most effective clean energy.” He added that we must look at other costs to support electricity generation.
Mr Sawyer says: “Some very ambitious plans were launched at the beginning of the World Future Energy Summit with Masdar leading in this part of the world. The case for energy has been made, and now it is for us to get on with the task.”
Dipolelo Elford comments: “There are many things we need to do upfront as developers. The competitive bidding process has driven the price of technology down. South Africa is an emerging market, but it is also a developing country”, Elford reminds us. “There are still large pockets of energy poverty in our country, and there are a lot of needs we need to satisfy.”
She concluded: “When prices were high it looked like there was no scope for black people – but now it’s better.”