Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy New Year 2010 to Enercon

Enercon E-112 prototype with two REpower 5M prototypes at Cuxhaven test field (image cropped from Wikipedia).

Our likes and dislikes may have different bases - some are rational, some are not. My pro-americanism, which is no secret for those who know or read me, is rational. It is based on what the USA do and don't do. And as soon as they do things that seem to me bad, I will attack them. I have already done this (and I intend to do it again) in relation to the Judge Rotenberg Center. This will also be a fiercely anti-American post, featuring another event.
Let me begin with a quote from Wikipedia:
"Enercon GmbH, based in Aurich, Northern Germany, is the third-largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world and has been the market leader in Germany for several years... Enercon was prohibited from exporting their wind turbines to the US until 2010 [1] due to alleged infringement of U.S. Patent 5,083,039 [2]. Recently a cross patent agreement was agreed with its competitor General Electric. Enercon claims their intellectual property was stolen by Kenetech (US Windpower, Inc.) and patented in the US before they could do so. Kenetech made similar claims against Enercon. However, solid evidence has been presented that shows there was espionage against Enercon... According to a National Security Agency employee, detailed information concerning Enercon was passed on to Kenetech via ECHELON.[1][3] According to this report, the aim of the espionage against Enercon was the forwarding of details of Wobbens wind wheel to a US firm. The consequence was that the US firm patents the wind wheel before Wobben, resulting in a breach of patent rights."
So US intelligence agencies devoted their time, resources and infrastructure to intellectual property theft and then the US court issued a verdict against the victim company, inflicting more damages on it. Need I comment this disgusting abuse of power? I think not. I wonder, however, what US people are thinking about this. Are they aware? Do they think that "national interests" justify everything? If so, then Americans will lose their moral superiority over their enemies. Do they worry that preoccupation of US intelligence agents with theft may jeopardize national security? I would worry about this.
Despite stealing innovations it could not develop itself, Kenetech company did not do well. Maybe evil deeds are indeed punished by God, as religious people claim, or bring bad luck, as superstitious people say. Anyway, Kenetech went bankrupt as early as 1996. Here are some relevant quotes from the European Tribune forum:
"Moon also references why Enercon turbines, the best in the world, are not available in the US. And that's only the surface of the sordid story. I fought Kenetech most of my career, because of precisely these kinds of actions. Their bankruptcy was a vindication of sorts for me personally, and my credibility in the industry. In actuality, GE now holds the old Kenetech patents, which expire in 2010, and Enercon has already made a royalty deal with them. But for political reasons, they have no wish to do business in the US... As someone formerly involved in the Aerospace industry, (I know that) this is standard practice for US firms and the US government. That's why I tend to make with the hollow laughing at a lot of the claims about "allies" and US innovation and various other topics."
This story touches me even more because of my soft spot for alternative energy. As I wrote once on Anglo-Libyan's blog, "at high school, I used to go to the university library and read books and articles about photosynthesis. I wanted to construct a chlorophyll-based solar battery. Such plans to save the world, the details varying according to personal areas of interest, seem to be usual at that age - though rarely talked about :-)." Several books on alternative energy sources (including wind power) bought at that time can still be found in my mother's library - the usual location for the books of a married woman.
In the summer of 1996, I saw live for the first time wind turbines, and they must have been Enercon's. I was on my way to my first (and only so far) international congress with several other Bulgarians, our participation being made possible by the enormous generosity of the German host. Soon after we crossed the Czech-German border, a colleague who had travelled the same path before said to me, "Look through the window and you'll soon see three wind turbines". And indeed, after a short time their beautiful giant silhouettes appeared in the blue evening sky, like something out of this world.
Later, I saw wind turbines on Bulgarian land. On our way to the sea resort town of Primorsko (described in my Aug. 2, 2006 post), we spotted several turbines near Sliven, a city famous for its winds. We had no sea vacation the following year because our younger son was still a baby. The next year (2008), we put both children in the car and set out for Primorsko, again, despite our slight dislike for its over-development. As we approached Sliven, I kept my eyes open for the wind turbines. However, I saw only one! Being a malignant pessimist, I immediately started thinking that something terrible had happened to the rest. But this was not the case. Several minutes later, the old group of turbines appeared in sight; it turned out that I had not remembered their proper location and the lonely turbine we had seen first was in fact a new addition. As we passed near them, I read the inscription "Enercon" on them. A year later, I first heard about the espionage story from the Explorer TV channel.
Now, as 2010 has arrived, I am glad that the ban that should never have been imposed is to expire. I wish more profits and less troubles to Enercon owners and employees. Will there be any reaction from the USA? Ordinary Americans could tell the story to those who don't know it yet and write about it in their blogs. Posslibly also e-mail their representatives in Congress that US security agencies should protect Americans from their enemies, rather than rob other countries. And President Barack Obama could welcome Enercon on US soil and say how sorry he is for what happened. After all, he is good at speeches (if not at anything else) and is always happy when he can bash his country.

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