Wind energy is in demand like never before but it is not profitable

Wind energy is in demand like never before but it is not profitable

Siemens Gamesa or Nordex have it complicated in a market full of contracts but with little margin due to the high supply costs and the slow pace of project development.
Siemens Gamesa or Nordex have it complicated in a market full of contracts but with little margin due to the high supply costs and the slow pace of project development.

It is a paradox: the demand for wind turbines has never been greater than it is these days. Even so, the situation of the operators is increasingly complicated. According to a survey in Germany in small towns with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, only 49 percent support expansion. In the largest cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, it is 67 percent. All this complicates the realization of wind projects in the portfolio of operators that increase losses and debts. Siemens Gamesa has published for the second quarter of fiscal year 2022 a revenue of 2.2 billion euros and a negative Ebitda of 304 million euros, although new contracts worth 1.2 billion euros have been assigned. Francisco Belil must now help change the fortunes of the Spanish-German company, however, it will not be easy because many problems are structural. He has just been appointed to the board of directors of Siemens Gamesa. He is not unknown to the world. He has been the president of the German Chamber of Commerce and also CEO of Siemens Spain for a long time.

Personal contacts to speed up processes

His contacts at all levels should help speed up some projects, but global supply problems cannot be solved by him. Although he is now 75 years old, Belil continues to move between the two cultures and the business that has been created in recent decades in this area where renewable energies have undoubtedly been a very large source of investment for decades and Spain will have a important role in the production of green hydrogen. The European Next Generation funds and the forced energy transition plan of Brussels will undoubtedly increase the opportunities in the world of wind energy, “although it continues to be an energy source that by itself consumes a lot of energy and resources in the production of the windmills and that is why unsustainable,” says the Spanish physicist and energy expert at the CSIC in Barcelona, Anthony Turiel. As it is much faster and cheaper to set up a solar park, Siemens Gamesa has been in a very difficult situation for quite some time, as has Nordex despite the fact that, at the moment, there is no alternative to wind power, which can also generate energy at night, unlike photovoltaics.

According to its CEO, José Luis Blanco, Nordex will continue to lose this year as well. In 2021, it has registered net losses of 230 million euros after the 130 million in red the previous year. Nordex’s competitors, Siemens Gamesa, Vestas and General Electric, are going through more or less the same difficulties. “The entire industry is in a terrible profitability situation, not just us,” says Blanco. The bankruptcy of the German Senvion, which has partly sold its assets to Siemens Gamesa, has scared a sector that seems to be dying of its own success. However, inflation in electricity and the European goal of independence in energy supply due to Russia’s war in Ukraine could have positive long-term effects, Blanco believes: ”

There is a lot of talk but little is built

Currently, the expansion of wind power is, above all, failing due to building permits in the case of Germany where the population density is higher than in Spain and many municipalities are resisting the construction of new parks. Furthermore, no one wants to sacrifice forests for windmills, not even in the fight against climate change. According to the Platform for Renewable Energies in Germany, the wind power initiative of the new government with a Green economics minister is not gaining momentum. “There are no advances in wind energy in the country,” criticized the head of the umbrella organization for the industry, Franz Pöter.

In the first three months of this year, only three new wind turbines were built in Baden-Württemberg, where the Greens also rule. But to achieve the country’s climate goals, an average of 100 new wind turbines per year will be required by 2030, Pöter said. The expansion of offshore wind power must be accelerated in his understanding. An installed capacity of offshore wind turbines of at least 30 gigawatts is planned for 2030 and at least 40 gigawatts for 2035. In 2045, at least 70 gigawatts should be generated in Germany in this way. For this reason, the cabinet has decided to modify the offshore wind energy law, which Iberdrola is already taking advantage of, whose planning approval process for “Baltic Eagle” is complete. There are 50 wind turbines, a power of 9.5 MW each, which will be operational by 2024. With a total of 475 MW, 50 percent of private households in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania could theoretically receive sustainable energy in this way. After the “Wiking” wind farm with 350 MW of power, “Baltic Eagle” will be the second wind farm of the Spanish company in the German Baltic Sea.

Bruce Dorminey
I'm a science journalist and host of Cosmic Controversy (brucedorminey.podbean.com) as well as author of "Distant Wanderers: the Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System."  I primarily cover aerospace and astronomy. I’m a former Hong Kong bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine and former Paris-based technology correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper who has reported from six continents. A 1998 winner in the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace Journalist of the Year Awards (AJOYA), I’ve interviewed Nobel Prize winners and written about everything from potato blight to dark energy. Previously, I was a film and arts correspondent in New York and Europe, primarily for newspaper outlets like the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe and Canada's Globe & Mail. Recently, I've contributed to Scientific American.com, Nature News, Physics World, and Yale Environment 360.com. I'm a current contributor to Astronomy and Sky & Telescope and a correspondent for Renewable Energy World. Twitter @bdorminey