The onshore wind sector is running out of game-changers as it vies with solar as the leading source of renewable power, said industry research specialist Wood Mackenzie as it tipped OEM Nordex as a candidate for consolidation when the current US wind boom cools.

The global onshore turbine sector is facing “constraints on technology innovation” with most of the “low hanging fruit already picked”, according to Wood Mackenzie, with any further reductions “marginal and dependent on the extended value chain as turbines reach maturity”.

“Top tier wind resources are critical to reaching the low power prices demanded by the market. These tend to be more localised than solar resources and situated in more remote locations,” said head of global wind research Dan Shreve.

With most ground-breaking technological shifts likely offshore rather than on, Wood Mackenzie said power network factors, and especially growth of HVDC transmission, is one area with potential to enable “substantial expansion of onshore wind energy”.

Transmission was one of three big onshore themes to watch tipped by Wood Mackenzie, which also predicted a “final wave of consolidation” among OEMs.

“Senvion has folded, Suzlon is under fire from investors in India and Enercon is reeling after the collapse of the German onshore market.

“Siemens acquired Gamesa in 2017, while Vestas joined ranks with Mitsubishi Heavy in 2013. The Nordex group will likely come back into play once the US market comes back down to earth in 2023, which will add an additional strain on western turbine OEMs who are locked out of a booming Chinese market.”

Wood Mackenzie said it’s conceivable that the top-three turbine OEMs will end up controlling 98% of the western turbine market, with a similar outcome seen in China.

“The passing of industry pioneers is bittersweet, though likely a necessity to yield the next round of cost reductions for global wind,” said Shreve.

The constraints of recycling on repowering is a third issue highlighted by Wood Mackenzie.

“The small size of first-generation wind turbines, and overall lack of repowering volume to date has limited the visibility of this issue.

“However, the recent success of the US 80/20 repowering program has facilitated over 10GW of megawatt-class turbines being repowered. As a result, there are thousands of 35-metre-plus fiberglass blades currently sent to landfill, a major concern given these materials are not biodegradable and take up enormous amounts of space.”

OEM giant Vestas recently turned the spotlight on blade recycling as it unveiled ambitious sustainability goals.