Vestas pursues 'modern energy'

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The wind towers made by Vestas Wind Systems can rise 30 stories in the air. A single unit can generate electricity to power 3,600 homes. A breeze of less than 10 mph can get the blades moving.

Vestas, based in Denmark, is the world’s largest maker of wind towers, holding about 25 percent of the market. And it touts its product lines like Ford markets cars and Dell advertises computers.

The versatile V52 is “an all-around performer;” the V80 “features OptiSpeed,” an advancement in variable-speed technology; the V90-3 is “remarkably light . . . remarkably efficient.”

Pueblo will become a kind of U.S. showroom for the company. As part of its agreement to build a tower plant in Pueblo, the company received the green light to erect up to three test towers on its plant site off Interstate 25 on the city’s southern outskirts. There are no immediate plans to build a tower on the site.

The promotion of wind power dominates Vestas’ brand marketing.

The company goes so far as to try to change how the world – including how the U.S., given its heavy investment in several Colorado-based plants – talks about energy.

Vestas repeatedly refers to wind energy as “modern energy.” (No, the company doesn’t go around calling oil and gas “ancient energy,” it just doesn’t talk much about them at all.)

“Why Modern Energy?” Vestas asks in its media handouts, and then answers that “wind power is clean, independent (and) it can be installed very quickly.

“And the price is both predictable and competitive. In other words, it is the appropriate response to the challenges we are facing. That is why we at Vestas call it Modern Energy.”

Vestas first entered the wind market amid the global oil crisis of the 1970s, another big era for renewable energy but one which fizzled by the early 1980s as oil prices tumbled back down.

Before that, Vestas – founded in 1989 by a blacksmith, H.S. Hansen, and his son – made steel windows for industrial buildings. Then came household appliances. Then agriculture equipment.

The end of the 1970s’ oils crisis – and, more precisely, the end of U.S. tax subsidies for wind energy companies – made the company’s first efforts into wind energy short-lived.

By 1987, the company was broken into parts with a new spinoff company, Vestas Wind Systems, left to continue development of wind energy. The new company was given a staff of 60 people.

Subsequent advances led to a 100-fold increase in wind turbine capacity.

Vestas employs more than 17,000 people worldwide, and counts more than 33,500 of its wind turbines in operation in markets that extend into more than 60 countries.

The company’s chief competitors include Spain’s Gamesa, India’s Suzlon Energy and units of Siemens and General Electric, according to Reuters.

It was a unit of General Electric that in 2003 supplied the wind towers for Colorado’s largest wind farm, the Colorado Green wind farm near Lamar.

Vestas’ major move into Colorado (and the U.S.) comes as the company seeks to seize on hot markets – and new tax benefits – in order to firmly establish wind as an energy option on par with oil and gas.

Just a week ago, the company saw its stock rise 8 percent after its second quarter report announced a ballooning backlog of orders for its wind systems.

“I think there are some very strong growth signals in these results, stronger than I can ever remember seeing in Vestas,” Sydbank analyst Jacob Pedersen told Reuters.

Vestas trades on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.

In the U.S., Vestas’ headquarters is located in Portland, Ore. In Colorado, the company operates a blade factory in Windsor and plans to open blade and turbine housing plants in Brighton.

Pueblo will become the site of the company’s fourth tower factory and its first in the U.S. The other tower factories are located in in the cities of Varde (the headquarters for the tower division) and Rudkobing, both in Denmark, and the city of Campbeltown in Scotland.Key players

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