Within a decade, and perhaps sooner, Chinese and Indian wind turbine-makers could begin gobbling up significant chunks of the European offshore market, says Andrew Mill, chief executive of the UK's New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec).
Liverpool: Mill, who through his work at Narec sees firsthand the huge room for improvement in today's offshore turbines, says Chinese and Indian turbine-makers are several critical steps behind their European competitors from a technological standpoint. However, not being in the driver's seat today allows them to tinker with potentially game-changing new ideas for tomorrow, while the European turbine industry grows increasingly consolidated and focused on "incremental" improvements.
"China and India are developing their own turbine technologies, and we should not dismiss their ability to bring new types of offshore turbines to market in the relatively near future," Mill tells Recharge .
"They'll get through the learning process, the same way European companies with turbines in the water today managed. "Whether [their turbines] will be ready for the early stages of Round 3 [of the UK's offshore development, scheduled to begin in 2014] or a bit later on, we'll have to see. But I certainly don't see any permanent barriers in the market for them," he says.
At present, 100% of the more than 700 turbines installed at the world's 28 fully operational offshore wind farms were designed and built by European or US companies. Siemens and Vestas are the leaders, with more than 300 turbines each now in the water.
They are trailed distantly by Danish firms NEG Micon (42) and Bonus (20), General Electric (12), Finland's WinWinD (10) and Germany's REpower (8). Vestas acquired NEG Micon in 2004, and Siemens bought Bonus the same year.
Mill says that eventual competition from Asian turbine manufacturers will be an important source of downward price pressure in the offshore market in years to come.