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28 November 2019

Siemens aims to demolish small players at WindEurope

With a wave of announcements this week, Siemens Gamesa has reaffirmed its position as a world-leading manufacturer, but it will not stop there. In a week where many at WindEurope are fearing a ‘cannibalism-effect’ within developers, the industry should be looking further down the supply chain as Siemen’s powerful strategy appears to be a move to squash smaller turbine manufacturers.

While many at WindEurope’s Offshore 2019 conference were talking of collaboration and partnership to reach the European Commission’s target of 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050, Siemens Gamesa had other ideas – to make itself look the obvious choice to developers on the largest stage possible. With a new announcement or story pretty much every day this week, rivals MHI Vestas and General Electric have been quiet, despite the fact that a lot of Siemen’s promises – as yet – are only promising on paper. These larger players are likely to survive pressure from the Spanish turbine-manufacturer, but smaller manufacturers could well succumb to the ‘cannibalism-effect’ that many at WindEurope seemed worried about, as larger players drive down prices at rates that others cannot afford.

Siemens Gamesa CEO Markus Tacke admitted the possibility for further consolidation within the industry this week, saying “Of the six players – us, Vestas, Nordex, GE, Suzlon and Senvion – two are insolvent, while there’s only two of us making money, so it’s a complicated situation.” With Senvion filing for insolvency in April this year, market conditions have meant that cost-cutting has been overstretched and profit margins squeezed. This has been the case generally since 10 years ago, when over 20 manufacturers had a stake in the European market. Signs that this number might continue to dwindle further is just another sign that the industry has yet to stabilize. Siemens will hope to capitalize on the casualties, as it already has by buying some of Senvion’s onshore business earlier this year.

Siemen’s standout announcement this week has to be the launch of the DD Flex concept within the SG 11.0-193 offshore wind turbine. Using 94-meter-long blades, with a digital control system designed to constantly observe performance, Siemens claims that the turbine can reach a capacity of 11 MW.

It’s worth taking a step back to realize that this is just a concept at the moment, with several at the conference joking about the ‘paper turbine’. However, the technology will be used to build upon the performance of the 10 MW SG10.0-193 DD turbine, which was announced in January. A protype of this is set to be tested in Denmark in the coming months, with manufacture at the company’s Cuxhaven factory in Germany. It is expected that the 10 MW turbine will enter the market in 2022, with a 30% greater energy production than its 8 MW predecessor.

The lack of concrete validation of the 11 MW version, however, has not prevented orders. Just a day after release, Vattenfall signed its largest turbine collaboration to date, using the new turbines in the four-phase expansion of the Hollandse Kust Zuid windfarms off the coast of Holland. With the latter stages of this project aiming for generation in 2023, Siemens may be hard-pressed to get its turbines built in the appropriate scale on time. We would predict that orders will continue to flood-in however, with key competitor GE receiving nearly 5 GW worth of orders for the similar 12 MW Haliade X turbine since its release in July.

Another announcement made by Siemens was its new ‘Wake Adapt’ feature. This was seemingly in direct response to Orsted’s published research which we reported on a few weeks ago, detailing that the effects of the blockage and wake effects on wind farm performance can lead to a significant reduction in annual energy yield. While the Wake Adapt idea was probably in Siemens pipeline prior to this announcement, the company claims that by yawing turbines, when wind speeds are above rated, that wake-induced production losses can be reduced by 10%, increasing the total annual energy yield of wind farms by up to 1% – which in a gigawatt scale plant, is significant.

Speaking to a member of Vattenfalls O&M team at the Siemens-Vattenfall deal, concerns were raised that yawing large turbines, especially at large speeds, could be dangerous. The asymmetric loads caused by a non-perpendicular angle of incident wind, could well introduce cyclic and fatigue loading to the turbine structure. We reached out to Siemens to comment on its research regarding this but have yet to receive an answer.

With this surge of announcements, Siemens clearly backs its ability to do this, with the parent company weighing up options to buy Iberdrola out of its turbine business Siemens Gamesa. Bloomberg has reported that its parent company will consider buying the 8 percent share in the company owned by Iberdrola for around €720 million, which would see Siemens holdings rise to approximately 67%.