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Solar power shines brightly in Vaconís future

25 May, 2010

The Finnish drives-maker Vacon has expanded its activities in the market for solar energy inverters by acquiring a small Spanish company that specialises in this technology. Vacon considers solar energy to be an extremely attractive market and a vital element in its growth plans, and has recently restructured its organisation to reflect this.

The Spanish acquisition is aimed at speeding up Vacon`s entry into the solar market, and the company is also recruiting solar energy experts. Its AC drive technology can be applied to the production of solar energy and the company is a launching a family of dedicated solar products in the second half of 2010.

Global investment in renewable energy production is forecast to rise from its $90bn in 2009 to $150bn by 2020, with investment in solar energy, in particular, expected to rise sharply in the next few years. According to one forecast, solar inverters could account for more than 30% of the global drives market by 2014.

“Vacon`s business operations are experiencing an increasingly clear division into two growth areas,” says Vacon’s president and CEO, Vesa Laisi (above). “One is the long-established field of controlling electric motors and the other is renewable energy applications. The AC drive market is going to grow strongly for a long time into the future and Vacon aims to grow faster than the market. Renewable energy will play a major role in achieving our goals.”

To reflect this development, Vacon is reorganising itself so that, from 1 June, it will be split into a global group and a Finnish profit centre. The global product marketing operation will itself be divided into AC drives for motor control, and those for renewable energy production.

“With this restructuring, we seek to create an unambiguous organisational structure that supports our determined efforts for growth, both in the field of traditional motor control and that of renewable energy production,” explains Heikki Hiltunen, Vacon’s executive vice-president responsible for products and markets.

Vacon’s new Finland Profit Centre will include the production operations of its factory in Vaasa, as well as the Finnish r&d, product management, maintenance and after-sales operations related to products manufactured in Vaasa.

“The change will bring a harmonised management system to every locality where Vacon has production and r&d activities, thus better supporting the growth objectives of our company," says Laisi.

Vacon reports that the AC drives market showed signs of picking up during the first quarter of 2010, with €72.8m of orders being received – a 14.6% improvement on the previous quarter and 5.5% higher than for the same period in 2009. First-quarter revenues totalled €65.3m – a decline of 6.7% compared to a year before, while operating profit was down 35.2% at €4.6m.

Vacon expects renewable technologies, including wind and solar power, to represent about 15% of its 2010 revenues.

Vacon’s revenues for the whole of 2009 were €272m and it employs around 1,200 people globally, including more than 170 involved in r&d.

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