Enercon’s experience in helping build Europe’s largest onshore wind farm so far – the 1GW-plus Markbygden project in Sweden – will stand it in good stead as the market expands to embrace giant new opportunities in the east, some linked to green hydrogen, said a senior executive at the OEM.
Germany-based Enercon had a role as developer as well as turbine supplier to parts of the massive Markbygden complex, which reached 1.1GW earlier this year.
Uli Südhoff, head of central, north and eastern Europe at Enercon, said the project had left the company better placed to help deliver what are likely to be even larger multi-gigawatt developments as the European wind market evolves further.
“There was a reason why we did that in Sweden. We proved what we could do,” Südhoff told Recharge at WindEurope's Electric City event in Copenhagen. “There were learning effects, [supplying turbines] but also EPC scope, civil works, balance of plant and bringing in external investors. We can also structure the offtake agreement.”
“We had a steep learning curve in the Markbygden project. But we’re going to scale it to other countries, other projects.”
Südhoff said with many markets in western Europe congested, eastern European markets such as Poland and Ukraine, and further afield central Asia, are likely to present large scale opportunities.
“The green transition will only happen if we also look at markets where they have land availability.
“When you look at the volume that’s going to be needed for hydrogen production, you’re looking at countries with space.”
Südhoff added: “We need to diversify our portfolio, especially in eastern Europe, [which] is definitely a growth market for us – [nations there] don’t have the same densities as we do in Germany.
“It’s about diversifying away from that over-reliance on the German region – quite a few of the German developers are working in those markets, but we’re also teaming up with local partners.”
German pie getting bigger again
Like other OEMs, Enercon has found the going tough in a German onshore wind market that in a few years shrank dramatically due to policy reversals – but has recently shown tentative signs of revival.
Südhoff said: “The German market is still our largest market by far in Europe. The pie is getting bigger again, but there’s one bottleneck – permitting,” referring to the issue that has stalled onshore development in Germany and other markets.
However, he added that the incoming German government is expected to show “a focus on renewables and onshore wind build out”.
Despite facing intense competition from other European OEMs – and potentially from Chinese rivals seeking to grow in international markets – Südhoff claimed Enercon is well placed to secure new business, not least in its traditional segment of medium-sized customers, “a very important sector where Enercon can be the aggregator”.
The Enercon executive added that to be successful an OEM “needs to [offer] lowest LCOE from a broad portfolio.
“There are not many OEMs who have such a broad product portfolio,” he claimed.
“Repowering and permitting – those are also areas where Enercon can offer support.”
But can an OEM like Enercon keep up in the turbine technology race with deep-pocketed rivals that may have access to technology resources elsewhere in their large multinational groups?
“We have on the supplier side, and on the customer side, a lot of innovation going on.
“It’s a competition between the suppliers to see who has the most innovative tower technology, or whatever, and we can pick and choose. I believe more in that market-based innovation than just one OEM thinking it can be the Holy Grail,” said Südhoff.
Reasons for confidence
After a well-publicised tough restructuring period as it plotted a return to profitability, Enercon has just appointed former Nordex chief executive Jürgen Zeschky as its new CEO, starting in January.
Südhoff claimed there are many reasons for Enercon to approach the market with renewed confidence.
“Financially and commercially, any OEM over the last few years was struggling [but] with the megatrends we have on the CO2 reduction goals, there will be more installations.
“I’m very confident. It is just very important that we stay focused. The new CEO has a very good background, he’s very deep into operational topics, and the portfolio.
“Now 2022 is again about being operationally strong.”