The Bosch Wind Energy Green Report
Photo via: Bosch RexrothRenewable energy is currently at an all-time high as far as political focus and public goal orientation are concerned. At the same time, it is also facing one of its greatest challenges, a very unfavorable economic market. I spoke with Raj Boya from Bosch Rexroth about the prospects of wind energy as we move towards a greener future.Despite many obstacles, wind energy has managed to increase in leaps and bounds over the past several years. Last December, the world’s total installed capacity for wind power exceeded 120GW, which is practically a 29% surge in the total amount of global wind energy capacity.
Photo via: Bosch Rexroth
Then came the third quarter of 2008, which hit a number of industries in the pocketbook. Despite the doom and gloom prediction for the future of green energy, 2009 should prove more stable than many people realize. Stable in growth, meaning no substantial loss in progress should occur, but also the industry itself should experience a moderate increase in stability. This increase will be due to key players, such as Bosch, who now have time to restructure and prepare for the next green energy boom, which could be expected as early as the second quarter of 2010.
Despite the unfavorable market, the wind energy gear drive division at Bosch Rexroth remains confident for a bright future. Obama’s economic stimulus bill has presented several provisions to help spur the development of wind energy, such as an extension of tax credits, renewable energy loan guarantee programs, and investments in new transmissions.
Photo via: Bosch Rexroth
Last February, Bosch Rexroth commenced production on a large gearbox plant in Nuremberg, in addition to existing plants in Witten and in Beijing, China. There are also future plans for a plant in the United States, which will become a leading manufacturer of wind turbine gear drives for all of North America.
By 2015 Bosch Rexroth plans to invest $450 million in wind power, expanding its production capacities to meet worldwide demand for these renewable technologies. Now this hardly sounds like an industry on its knees. Let's talk more about the present and future of wind energy with Raj Boya of Bosch Rexroth:
Photo via: Bosch Rexroth
Eric J. Leech for Treehugger: Can you give us an overview of Bosch Rexroth's current focus on renewables?Raj Boya: Bosch Rexroth is the drive and control technology division of Bosch. We deal with all of the components that go into the hydraulic, electric, and mechanic parts of wind turbines. Gear boxes are one of the key components we supply to our OEM's. We also do the yaw drive and pitch drive, as well as the the braking systems.
TH: What's is in the works for Bosch right now?RB: There is a new production plant in Nuremberg, Southern Germany. We also have a new plant in Beijing, China. We have increased our production capacities for the European market as well as the Asian, and are are currently in the planning phase of a manufacturing plant in the United States (North America).
TH: What do you see in the future for wind turbine production?RB: In Europe, there is a very strong commitment for the entire industry, including their legislature. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is an excellent stock term boost for the industry in general. The OEM's and all the other industry players seem to be very optimistic of this move. We also see an increased level of equipment from the legislative standpoint to wind and renewable energies. From a nationwide perspective, the Renewable Electric Standard should provide an additional boost. For the long-term, talks about carbon legislation could bring about further headway to the wind energy industry.
TH: What new technologies in wind turbine drive train can we look forward to in the future?RB: In specific to wind energy, Bosch Rexroth acquired a majority share in a condition monitoring company that is based in Germany, called Igus ITS. They develop, manufacture, and sell condition monitoring systems for wind turbines. We also see our product as becoming increasingly bigger and better. The average megawatt turbine installed today is constantly on the rise. We have products that range up to 5 megawatts at the moment.
TH: Do you foresee any problems in the supply chain as was experienced a few years ago?RB: We talk about supply chain bottlenecks from 2006 and 2007. The industry was booming and everybody was complaining, Where is our gearboxes, where are our bearings. Gearboxes were essentially in bottleneck because of capital expenditure. As we have looked back at this, we realize we are much better prepared to address any splurge in demand that may come in 2010 or 2011. This is based out of legislative activities and the current push the administration is showing. This is a very positive development we see in terms of the future supply for the wind energy industry.
TH: Beyond wind energy, what are some other projects Bosch is involved with on the energy front?RB: We have a joint venture with Samsung and lithium-ion battery technology we would like to commercialize. On the solar side, we acquired Ersol Company, a photovoltaic manufacturing plant, and invested around $500 million Euros in tripling its capacity for the PV market. Overall, we are very focused on a long term strategy for renewable energy and all the mega trends we see for the future.
TH: How has the current economic downturn effected the progress of wind technology?RB: Wind developers have trouble finding project financing from the banks, but when it comes to utilities, they will start to own and maintain these wind farms thanks to the Renewable Electric Standards. These are not big utilities companies, they have their own self finance units, and are currently moving forward with their expansion plans despite an unfavorable market. For wind energy technology in general, there is still activity on this front, but we do not see the burst of activity or the major boom that we saw back in 2007. This year should remain stable, but we will have to wait for the second half of 2010 to begin to see the market reemerge. Right now we are in the planning stage and gearing up for the next burst in demand.
Thanks Raj for discussing some of the key concerns for the wind energy industry and how Bosch Rexroth is poised to continue its renewable efforts despite current unfavorable economic conditions.