Windeurope 2024 highlights

On 20, 21 and 22 March, WindEurope 2024, Europe’s leading wind power trade fair and conference organised by Windeurope, took place in Bilbao. As on previous occasions, taking advantage of the privilege of being held in Bilbao, we took a tour of the BEC to take the pulse of the wind business and, of course, to greet friends and colleagues in the sector.


For the third time in the last 5 years, WindEurope returned to Bilbao for its annual event. The organisers were expecting more than 12,000 attendees, some 3,000 more than the previous edition in 2022, and the truth is that there was a bigger turnout in general, with more people in the exhibition area and the conferences packed to capacity. It has to be said that for an international event, it is small compared to others such as WindEnergy Hamburg (40,000 attendees) or the SmartE Munich solar event (120,000 attendees). Despite this, it seems that there were certain logistical and infrastructure problems in the city, which Sergio reported in his special edition of Windletter on the fair, highly recommended by the way.


But let’s skip the preliminaries and get to the highlights of what we saw and heard during the event.


Saving private “European wind industry”


Undoubtedly, the main theme of the fair was the European wind industry and how to support it so that it can grow and become the driving force behind the decarbonisation of the continent.


On paper it seems a clear and unambiguous message. WindEurope summed it up in its “our wind, our value” and there is no doubt that the vast majority of those present supported the message. But that is as far as unity within the sector goes. When it comes to specific measures to protect the industry, the disparity of views begins and everyone defends their “own agenda”.


While European OEMs are calling for limiting the entry of Chinese manufacturers, as summarised by the CEO of SiemensGamesa with his phrase “We need to make sure wind’s dependencies are not too big“, there are many component manufacturers who criticise the double game of OEMs asking for protection from Chinese competitors but at the same time moving their supply chain to China. And as if that were not enough, the big developers do not even want to hear about their ability to choose suppliers being limited or their business cases being threatened by the obligation to buy more expensively.


In reality, everyone is right and although it seems difficult to please everyone, the answer is on the other side of the Atlantic: legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act addresses all three sensitivities: it encourages the buyer to buy local, it ensures that the local product has local components and it helps the local manufacturer.


European politicians do not have a clear view on this either


One of the characteristics of this event is that there is a large institutional representation of EU and European governments. In fact, at the conferences there was a large presence of energy ministers and senior energy officials from European countries as well as representatives of the main European parties, and apart from a lot of rather superfluous “political” discourse, what became clear is that there is no single idea of how to support renewables and wind energy in particular.


There were politicians from countries with a strong wind industry, such as Germany or Spain, who clearly advocated protective measures, while other countries without such an industry were sending out messages more in line with accelerating the installation of renewables with diversified sources. There were even interventions saying that perhaps it was necessary to go more slowly so as not to jeopardise European competitiveness in general… In short, although the EU’s message is clear, I suspect that the famous “national transposition” will depend a lot on the local agenda of each government.



For the moment, Spain seems to be one of the countries that is most clearly committed to doing something and in fact, during the fair, the protocolary signing of the Spanish wind charter, the national version of the WPAP, took place (see post about the WPAP). The signed document lacks a certain ambition and lacks to incorporate suggestions from the sector, but it is undoubtedly a positive point.



Beyond the details, it is clear how difficult it is to achieve a common position in Europe, even on issues where we almost all agree on the essentials.


OEMs: joy is spread unevenly


The other star theme of Windeurope was the recovery of the OEMs (or at least some of them). The Vestas stand was brimming with optimism and frenetic activity, perfectly reflecting the current sentiment at the wind leader. I also really like the way Vestas plays the role of market leader by launching interesting and well-crafted sectoral messages. During this fair, it launched the “turn auctions into actions” campaign, a series of recommendations to make auctions more efficient. One of the suggestions seems to me to be groundbreaking: profit sharing. Perhaps another day we will talk more in depth about this document. Following in the neighbourhood of optimism, there was Nordex announcing an 800 MW contract with RWE and with a large presence at the event thanks to the omnipresent Jose Luis Blanco, who had to multiply his time to attend to his commitments as CEO and president of WindEurope, and who still had time to greet and chat with colleagues and acquaintances in the sector.


GE Vernova attracted attention with its bunker-like stand, whose design seemed designed to scare off potential visitors. The company is in the midst of a spin-off process trying to find a way back to profitability, with the offshore business weighing down the rest.



And last but not least Siemens Gamesa, which lately has to be in “bad weather, good face” mode at trade fairs. With no good news to give, no product to sell, with few answers to the many questions that exist in the market, the attitude and work of the company’s great professionals is fantastic. We wish you all the best for better times to come.


Offshore is finally a reality in Spain


One of the big positive developments at the fair was undoubtedly offshore. With the first auction in Spain almost in sight (there is no date but it looks like it will be this year), the sector is finally starting to talk about real projects and business in Spain. In previous fairs in Bilbao, it was only a testimonial and institutional presence, but on this occasion, there was much more activity.


Special mention should be made of Navantia/Windar, a true leader in the offshore sector, which celebrated the second anniversary of its Navantia Seanergies brand during the fair. They are achieving a lot of merit, with a presence in the main offshore projects and great growth. Also to Saitec, who were playing at home and who finally have their 2 MW floating prototype operating off the coast of Biscay.


Few (if any) new product developments


The only new turbine was the Enercon E-175 whose rated power has been upgraded to 7.0 MW. The rest of the manufacturers are following the (rightly) announced policy of slowing down the pace of development in order to make their current platforms reliable and profitable.


Regarding Enercon’s development, they made a very interesting presentation at the stand showing the new turbine developments. The only novelty compared to what was presented at the last Husum was the uprate to 7 MW. Although it is direct drive, the times of the slip ring generator with external excitation are long gone and Enercon’s current designs are increasingly mainstream, with PMG generator with external rotor (like SGRE in their offshore models). The traditional egg-shaped nacelle is a thing of the past and from now on we will be used to seeing the huge generator disc with the e-nacelle container behind it.



Impressive is the modular generator in 2 pieces to be transported by truck.




Strong competition from regional wind hubs


I think this is the edition that has seen the largest number of regional or national pavilions. Denmark, Ireland, France, Norway, UK, Holland… there is undoubtedly a lot of competition in Europe to gain a foothold in this sector and that is why we must value and take care of what we have at home: the energy cluster of Euskadi was playing at home and had 45 companies on its shared stands. Industry from Navarre was also present with a shared stand for 6 companies and another 3 with their own stand.




In conclusion, it was a great event, the BEC is one of the best venues in Europe and it is fortunate that Windeurope comes to Bilbao so often. There was a more optimistic atmosphere at this year’s event. The industry is still going through difficult times but the overall situation is certainly better than 2 years ago and almost everyone is confident that it will continue to improve.