The wind industry supply chain is serviced by hundreds of independent companies at various levels in the chain. There are two vertically integrated companies.
Owners – these often utility companies which want to have wind farms in their energy portfolio. Owners generally operate their assets themselves.
Developers – these take wind farms from initial idea through consenting, financing and construction to final completion and early operation, before selling on to owners. Frequently, utility owners have their own in-house development team. Iberdrola of Spain and FPL of the US are the two largest developers in the world and are also large utilities.
Wind turbine manufacturers – these design and assemble the wind turbines (including rotor, nacelle, and tower) from mainly bought-in components. Many of these companies are based in Germany, Denmark and Spain, China and the US and developing manufacturing bases elsewhere.
Balance of plant suppliers – whether onshore or offshore, frequently ‘balance of plant’ supply is managed directly by the developer. Balance of plant includes foundations, site cabling, wind farm transformers and switchgear and access roads.
First tier suppliers – these suppliers provide components or services to turbine manufacturers or balance of plant suppliers, for example gearboxes, generators, control systems, towers and transformers.
Second tier suppliers – these suppliers provide components or services to 1st tier suppliers such as machined parts, flanges, fixings, electrical components.
Wind farm developers and owners
Wind farms are developed and owned differently across the world, reflecting the policy decisions taken in government at the start of the industry. Some countries are dominated by large developers and energy companies, others by small private investors. Small-scale private investment has been encouraged partly to promote public acceptance, especially in small crowded countries, such as Denmark, where 90% of wind turbines are owned by farmers’ co-operatives, and in the Netherlands, where 65% are owned by local co-operative investors. By contrast, most wind farms in the USA, Spain and the UK are owned by utilities or larger investors.
The largest developers and owners of wind power projects are mainly electricity utilities, energy companies and dedicated wind power investors often owned by venture capital or equity groups. The other group of owners consist of municipalities and private investors and owners. Some of these use the output themselves and some sell it to the grid or individual users.
In the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2010 and 2011, mergers and acquisitions have increased as the economy has been slowly recovering.