Stockwell Elastomerics had been working with Gamesa, a Spanish manufacturer of wind turbine blades for the U.S. market. The large, highly valuable composite blades require cushioning to protect them from damage during transport and storage. This protection is critical because damage to the blades is often not detected until the blades are installed on the turbines – resulting in extremely high costs for repair and re-installation. Stockwell collaborated with Gamesa engineers to create a material solution offering the exceptional protection required. Based on the success of this application, Stockwell wanted to assess the potential for additional business in the wind energy market. According to Stockwell Elastomerics President Bill Stockwell, “Based on our success with Gamesa, we wondered if there might be opportunities to adapt that product to other companies in the wind market. We wanted to do some initial research to validate the market and gain intelligence on the players, their needs and purchasing influences.”
Stockwell engaged DVIRC for a Market Scouting effort designed to identify market behavior and potential opportunities. DVIRC’s research professionals identified manufacturers of wind turbines, blades and towers with an emphasis on blade manufacturers with logistics capabilities. Associated assemblers and engineers were also identified. A database of contacts was created which included key decision makers and influencers. Those contacts were interviewed in conjunction with targeted market research activities designed to gauge the potential for Stockwell product offerings and capabilities.
Through the Market Scouting report, Stockwell learned that opportunities in the U.S. wind energy market are limited at this time. “Understanding this fact was valuable to us,” notes Bill Stockwell. “It gave us the facts we needed, and showed us that our sales and marketing dollars and activities would be better invested elsewhere for now. Following are specific findings of the DVIRC research. Wind energy opportunities have decreased. Due to the recent decline in fuel prices, the wind energy market has become cold. Fewer wind turbines are being deployed, resulting in reduced sales opportunities for the Stockwell product. Manufacturers and decision makers are in Europe. The majority of the major wind turbine manufacturers are headquartered in Europe.
Most of the final decision making appears to be done by foreign design groups, offering limited opportunities for U.S. companies. It may take a longer-term effort than Stockwell can invest in to make inroads and connections with European design and engineering prospects. The Stockwell product offers higher value, at a higher price. The cushioning product most commonly used to protect wind blades is an inexpensive foam material. The Stockwell silicone sponge Transportation Cushioning Pad product is more expensive; however, it is also more durable and is re-usable. Future marketing efforts will need to promote the value-added and long-term benefits of the Stockwell product.