Nordex invests to boost blade length and modernized production

Nordex will invest €50 million to expand its blade production facilities in Germany and enable "build-to-print" with global manufacturing partners, to meet demand for increased sales of longer blades.

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Highlighting the strategic importance of wind turbine rotor blades as a core technology, Nordex  (Rostock, Germany) CEO Dr. Jürgen Zeschky proclaimed, “The rotor is the motor.” He explained at a May 21 press conference that the company will reinforce their 33 percent growth last year — due mostly to extending output of current models via longer blades — by investing close to €50 million in production technology for modern, large-dimensioned rotor blades.

Initially, this investment will involve the expansion and modernization of its Rostock plant, with the other half of the funds channelled into a long-term “build-to-print” strategy with international partners. This is because more than 80 percent of all Nordex  turbines are installed in countries outside Germany. Thus, investing in how to integrate with international partners will help to harness the cost advantages of those production facilities.

Due to its projected increase in sales volume, Nordex wants to increase production output from Rostock, its only production factory. Nordex had manufactured nacelles and completed assembly at a U.S. facility in Jonesboro, Arkanas, but, as CEO Zeschky lamented, it was forced to cease production there due to "the weakened demand from the US market, brought on by the unpredictable extensions of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), and the resulting low utilization rate of our US assembly plant." He noted that while Nordex will bolster Rostock, it remains committed to covering only 20 to 30 percent of its requirements internally.

“We will expand our rotor blade plant in Rostock to become the lead factory," Zeschky announced. Blades produced over the next few years will include the NR58.5 (58.5m/192-ft long) and NR65.5 (65.5m/215-ft long) blades for the N131/3000, N117/3000 and N117/2400 turbines. Nordex has also developed the N150  (150m/492-ft diameter rotor) 6MW offshore turbine and installed two offshore prototypes, an N90 2.3MW turbine in Frederikshaven, Denmark and an N90 2.5MW turbine in Breitling, Germany. Though Nordex has published plans to install 70 of the N150 offshore turbines by 2015, no discussion of these longest blades was included in its most recent press conference.

Nordex went on to explain that the greater dimensions of the blades and tools (molds) to be produced require modifications to the existing production halls. In addition, an entirely new building for rotor blade finishing will be constructed. Nordex claims the resulting  separation of basic production and finishing will remove the need for complex production steps and facilitates quality assurance.

Nordex plans implementation of this blade production strategy between 2014 and 2016.