Siemens begins integration of new turbine into its production amid change in ownership

By John Green Staff writer jgreen@hutchnews.com

The massive rectangular steel box near the end of the moving line looked a little out of place amid a string of the plant's sleek, barrel-shaped turbines on the assembly line at Siemens Wind manufacturing plant.

Otherwise, integrating serial production of the new, larger SWT 2.3-120 turbine into operations at the six-year-old, 300,000-square-foot nacelle plant seemed like a natural progression for an operation that has sent thousands of wind turbine nacelles into open fields around the world. 

With the merger of Siemens Wind and Spanish manufacturer Gamesa in April, workers at the Hutchinson plant received new employee badges that say "Siemens Gamesa." New signage will also likely appear at the plant off Enterprise Drive , said Public Information Officer Myca Welch.

There is little other visible change locally for the business, which continues to employ 360 people full-time, along with temporary labor, on two shifts.

Besides production, jobs at the Hutchinson plant include logistics, maintenance, quality assurance, supply chain, finance, engineering, lean practices and environmental health and safety, said Siemens North America spokesman Jeffrey Grappone.

Marking its seventh year

Since its October 2010 opening, the Hutchinson plant has produced nearly 3,700 of the company's SWT 2.3-108s − a 2.3-megawatt wind turbine that operates with 108-meter-long blades.

The newer product features a larger rotor, accommodating 120-meter, or nearly 394-foot, blades.

"The new turbine is developed with an eye toward increasing energy production for sites with medium- to low-wind conditions, which are prevalent in markets within the Americas region," Grappone said.

In addition, the design of the new nacelle, with its larger, square steel body, is intended to allow easier access to its components the company stated.

Besides adding production of a second turbine to its line, the Hutchinson plant is looking for ways to make turbines that increase wind farm efficiency.

Called "repowering," upgrades extend the life of existing turbines, many of which have been operating on wind farms for decades.

"Depending on length of service, overhauls could be extensive – including replacement blades, hubs and the drivetrain – or delivering only a few main replacement parts," Grappone said in an email.

There are currently nearly 6,000 Siemens turbines installed in the U.S., capable of producing renewable power for more than 4.2 million households per day.

Merger

Before the merger, the Siemens Wind division – formed in 2004 when German conglomerate Siemens AG acquired the then 24-year-old Bonus Energy – broke from Siemens as a separate company.

Siemens has 59 percent ownership in the new joint company, though its headquarters are in Spain – where Gamesa has been producing turbines since 1995. Its stock is registered with the Mercantile Registry of Biscay in Spain.

It will take up to two years to integrate the work for both companies.

Markus Tacke became the company's chief executive officer last week by a unanimous appointment from the board of directors of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. 

Tacke, who has more than 20 years' experience in the energy and power generation sectors, served for four years as CEO of Siemens Wind Power before the merger. He replaced Ignacio Martin, who served as interim CEO.

The combination of Siemens and Gamesa moves the joint company into the top four of the world's largest wind original equipment manufacturers. It reaches more than 90 countries on five continents, leading products in both onshore and offshore wind development, according to the company.

Siemens wind has a strong market in North America and Northern Europe, while Gamesa is well positioned in emerging markets, such as India, Latin America and Southern Europe.

$3.4 billion in orders

Both companies reported strong second quarters for 2017, which are pre-merger operations.

Orders for Siemens wind and renewables soared 47 percent in the second quarter, to more than $3.39 billion, compared with just over $2.39 billion in the same period last year, according to a report in Windpower Monthly.

The company credited a $1.52 billion offshore wind farm deal for its 7MW turbines amond its largest orders.

The company's wind and renewables revenues grew 4 percent to almost $1.66 billion from $1.6 billion in the same period in 2016. Profits were also up about 13 percent, to $163.9 million.

For its first quarter, Gamesa's wind turbine business saw increased revenues of 48 percent, to $1.54 billion, due primarily to 40 percent growth in activity.

Overall, Gamesa reported $109 million in net profit, a 39 percent increase from the same quarter last year.

Record quarterly revenues boosted profits, amounting to $1.68 billion− a 45 percent increase from the first quarter of 2016.