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Vestas Back On Top as Wind Turbine Installations Leader

A turnaround story, a sluggish U.S market, and a surge in China cause a big shakeup in the ranks of wind turbine manufacturers, as compiled by new analyst reports.

Vestas, the longtime number-one turbine maker which was dethroned in 2012 by GE, has retaken the top spot with just over 13 percent market share. Surging up the ranks for the No.2 spot in Make's list is China's Goldwind (just over 10 percent), illustrating the big rebound in China's wind market in 2012. Enercon (10 percent) and Siemens (8 percent) round out the top five grouping. Rounding out the top 10 were GE and Gamesa which slid to 6-7, followed by United Power, Minyang, and Nordex, just eking out XEMC and Envision.

Similar new data from GlobalData also puts Vestas on top, followed by Enercon, Goldwind, Siemens, and Suzlon, with GE and Gamesa falling out of the top 5. A similar wind energy market share update from Nagivant/BTM is due by the end of this month to further fill out the picture.

Top 5 wind turbine manufacturers, 2013 vs. 2012. Credit: GlobalData

Being back in the top spot is the culmination of a two-year turnaround at Vestas, one in which the company shed 12 factories and nearly a third of its workforce, but erased 900 million euros in debt and close to a billion euros in annual losses. Business is so good in North America, in fact, that the company plans to hire another 450 workers in its Colorado factories to supply projects in the U.S. and Canada -- that's in addition to the 400 new workers it's been hiring there since January. (These positions "are considered temporary with the opportunity to be hired as regular Vestas employees," the company clarifies.) Vestas says it has enough contracts in hand to project 2.6 GW of turbine sales in the U.S. and Canada this year. "We are going to be extremely busy making blades, nacelles and towers this year through at least 2015," stated Chris Brown, president of the company's domestic sales and service division.

GE snatched the top spot in 2012 due to its heavy reliance on the then-robust U.S. market, which was experiencing a rush to qualify for the set-to-expire production tax credit (PTC). The 11th-hour extension of the PTC ultimately sent the U.S. wind sector into hibernation for the first six months of the 2013 and hampered GE's performance in the competitive rankings. Getting midyear clarification in the PTC language to allow plants under construction to qualify sparked major investments in wind development, which should boost the U.S. market once again in 2014 -- AWEA currently tracks more than 12 GW of new generating capacity under construction as of the end of 2013, nearly 11 GW of that activity starting construction in the fourth quarter alone.

The ascendance of Goldwind reflects China's commitment to adding a great deal more wind power. The nation added roughly 16 GW of new wind capacity, according to the China Wind Energy Association. China's wind targets remain very aggressive, seeking 200 GW of cumulative installed capacity by 2020. Getting it all grid-connected is proving to be a major challenge, though, requiring new infrastructure investments and market reforms to decentralize and speed up planning and permitting.

Various regional trends drove wind turbine manufacturers' business in 2013, and will drive them in different directions in 2014, so expect more flux in these rankings once 2014 is said and done. Those themes are explored in the newest issue of our digital magazine.

Lead image: Wind power installation in sunny day, via Shutterstock

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