The global economic turmoil has started having an impact on the wind energy industry in Europe. Some companies are cutting down forecasts and production for 2009 and the market is showing the first signs of slowdown.

The current economic situation is slowly affecting the wind energy industry, remarks Frost Sullivan Research Analyst Gouri Nambudripad. "We are going to see a slowing down of the double-digit growth rates that were witnessed in the past few years. Some market players are reducing their aggressive production and development targets and this is going to trickle down the supply chain."

This situation will have positive effects like reduction in turbine prices (due to fall in raw material prices), the reduction of delivery times of components leading to a more balanced demand supply situation.

The industry, says Gouri Nambudripad seems to be heading from the overheated undersupply state into a supply-demand equilibrium if not into a state of having spare production capacities and thus having to fight rigorously for the new orders still remaining in the market.

In the past three or four years, subsidies, mandates and public opinion have made demand for such components grow tremendously. To secure supplies of critical components such as gearboxes and bearings, wind turbine producers were resorting to various strategies such as vertical integration and signing long-term contracts with suppliers and sub-suppliers.

Suppliers were not prepared to face the increasing demand, especially small companies that had not been investing enough to increase their production capabilities. This situation was causing a shortage of supply that, coupled with design problems of components, was affecting the industry.

Prior to the onset of the economic meltdown, the trend was expected to continue for the next 2-3 years at least. However, with the situation at hand, the strategies of the component suppliers as well as those of turbine manufacturers will be different considering a slowing down of demand of turbines and thereby the components for those wind turbines.

The new reality will foster a fiercer competition between the suppliers turning into a growth opportunity for those who are capable of reducing their costs and prices faster. Other factors contributing to the fall in prices include falling prices for raw materials and construction services. The sharp decrease in raw materials prices, such as steel and copper, will inevitably induce the decrease in equipment prices. For example, steel prices reached a record high in June-September 2008 and crushed down to December 2007 levels in less than 3 months. Not only are the prices affected but also the delivery times as steel mills are starving for new orders and the lead times on new orders have reduced dramatically.

The decrease in raw materials and component costs coupled with the on-going government support extended to green energy industry is likely to sustain the demand for wind turbines but it is paramount for the industry to maximize the performance of the existing assets and address the remaining technical issues. In doing so, the wind industry is likely to emerge stronger and fitter when the crisis is over.

Strategic Assessment of the European Wind Energy Market: Value Chain Analysis is part of the Energy Power Growth Partnership Service programme, which also includes research in the following markets: European Wind Service Markets, Western European Wind Power Markets and Strategic Assessment for European Biomass Energy Markets. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.