Wind energy Vestas comes to the Broadmoor

Although Colorado Springs has so far been unable to attract any renewable energy manufacturers to the area, Danish wind power giant Vestas made a visit on Wednesday to hold a conference for financial analysts at The Broadmoor.

Vestas Wind Systems operates three large manufacturing facilities in Colorado, employing about 1,300 people, and also has manufacturing facilities around the world. Wednesday’s presentations covered a variety of subjects including new technology, quality, manufacturing techniques and market projections for North America, South America and China.

Many of the speakers Wednesday emphasized how Vestas improves long-term returns on investment because of the company’s dedication to testing and quality.

As a model windmill on the stage spun lazily in the breeze from the air conditioning system, Robert Fritz, a senior vice president at the company, said Vestas would not participate in a race to the bottom on cost.

"Sixty percent of the cost of a project is the wind turbine," Fritz said. "One hundred percent of the success of the wind farm project is based on the performance of that wind turbine.

"The ability of that machine to perform to the specification that built the business case in the first place is critical," he said.

Finn Strøm Madsen, Vestas’ president of technology research and development, said the company intends to remain a pure-play wind power company, rather than diversifying into related technologies. He noted that one-quarter of the world’s wind turbines were made by Vestas and said the investments pledged in the United States and China make those areas the focus of the company’s growth outlook.

Wind technology has not plateaued, Madsen said. "Wind energy on a cost basis is getting very close to competing with natural gas and other conventional sources," Madsen said.

The economic slowdown has taken a toll on the wind company. In August, Vestas announced that sales dropped 17 percent for the quarter and 24 percent for the first half of the year, leading to a second-quarter net loss of 119 million euros ($153 million) from a profit of 43 million euros a year earlier. CEO Ditlev Engel said in an interview on CNBC that Vestas is expecting a stronger second half.

The conference will continue Thursday with a tour of Vestas’ Pueblo plant, where the wind turbine towers are made, and then head up to Brighton, where the nacelles (which house the generator and control equipment) are made. Gov. Bill Ritter is scheduled to speak in Pueblo, addressing the importance of Vestas to Colorado’s new energy economy.

By Andrew Wineke, The Gazette,