Belfast Telegraph

Vertical benefits from the winds of change in the energy market

By Symon Ross

A Northern Ireland-based company is hoping to take the wind energy market by storm with a new wind turbine to be unveiled this week.

Vertical Wind Energy (VWE), headquartered in Co Antrim, received a £1.2m investment from NorthStar Equity, Clarendon Fund Managers and private investors in July to commercialise its products. Started in 2007, VWE designs, manufactures and sells vertical axis wind turbines using modular construction and installation techniques.

Managing director Tony Gordon said expectations are high in a burgeoning market.

The firm anticipates selling 320 of its 3KW turbines in 2010 and is installing the first of its 6KW turbines in England on Thursday, with a view to having the larger turbine available for sale by March.

“If we sell 300 turbines next year, which we think is possible, we will be turning over £5m. Our ambitions are that in year five we’ll be turning over £50m,” he said.

However, Mr Gordon said the company does not expect many sales in Northern Ireland because incentives, known as feed-in tariffs, will not apply in the province when they come into force across the rest of the UK.

Under the Energy Act of 2008 the Government expressed an interest in increasing the uptake of microgeneration by introducing payments for generating carbonless electricity. “For every KW hour you generate, the utility company pays you a minimum of 23p. Suddenly that gives you an income stream which you don’t normally get when you purchase capital equipment,” said Mr Gordon.

“Unfortunately it is not being applied in Northern Ireland and there is very little dialogue about it, but it is being applied in the rest of the UK in April 2010. It’s a huge shame because we are a Northern Ireland firm that has been backed by Invest NI, local venture capitalists and we got some angle funding from Northern Ireland businessmen, yet I haven’t even budgeted for in sales in Northern Ireland.”

Payback for the 6KW in Northern Ireland will be about 14 years compared to seven or eight years in the rest of the UK, he believes.

VME’s target markets include the North East and South West of England, Scotland, Portugal and France. It has sold more turbines into the Republic in last three months than anywhere else because planning permission requirements have been removed and people can sell any generation they don’t use back to the grid at a good price.

Belfast Telegraph