Technical developments, such as the adoption of low-lubricant-consuming direct-drive wind turbines in some major markets, will likely mean a decrease in demand for wind turbine lubricants; however, this decrease will be counterbalanced by an ongoing vast expansion in overall generating capacity, finds a new report from consulting and research firm Kline & Co.
This growing penetration of direct-drive technology is an important issue for the industry, but significant improvements in reliability of geared wind turbines will help the latter maintain their market dominance, the report says.
‘Although the market for lubricants used in wind energy is small in terms of overall volume, it is rendered particularly attractive by its high growth, the high penetration of synthetics – estimated to be above 80% – and its 'green' associations," explains Milind Phadke, Kline's energy practice industry manager. "Existing lubricant marketers face the challenge of new lubricant suppliers emerging, especially in the service fill market, where, rather than [original equipment manufacturer (OEM)] alliances, new end-user groups – such as wind farm operators, offshore operators and maintenance service provider companies – are now becoming increasingly important.
"Overall, the market offers strong margins to leading lubricant marketers who sell their products on the basis of performance guarantees, a proven track record and OEM alliances," Phadke adds. "Moreover, products developed for the wind energy industry have found applications in other industries where micro-pitting and scuffing resistance is valued.’
Kline predicts that despite various political and technical concerns, lubricant consumption in wind energy will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9% to 18% over the next five years.