Companies cash in on growing wind energy sector

Global Business

These days, wind is generating more and more of the energy we use.

A new report predicts 30 percent of the electricity consumed in Europe could be wind-generated by the year 2030.

The cost of wind power has come down significantly in recent years and a major Chinese wind turbine company is trying to further that trend with a research facility in the U.S.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

“The blades are arguably the most critical component of the wind turbine,” Kevin Standish, Envision Energy’s Global Blade Innovation Center Director said.

Improving the design of wind turbine blades is the Center’s mission.

“It’s just a solid piece of fiberglass that’s out there and flying,” Standish said. “You compare that to an aircraft wing that’s got all sorts of moving flaps and systems and stuff. So in that sense it’s much simpler.”

But there’s more to it than that. Blades are key components of wind turbines which convert the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical power. Envision, China’s second largest turbine company, used to outsource all of its blade design work. Nearly two years ago it brought that work in-house with a dedicated facility in Boulder, Colorado.

“Blades are just like a vehicle’s engine to the wind turbine so that’s the most important part,” Jiabo Ye, Envision energy project manager said. Ye is part of a team of more than two dozen in Boulder whose job is maximizing each blade’s performance while balancing things like aerodynamics, materials and the ability to withstand severe weather.

“You have to do basically a trade-off between how much power do I generate, what are my loads, how expensive do I make the rotor and the turbine,” said Kristian Dixon, Envision Energy Senior Researcher, adding “how noisy is it going to be?” “When you start diving into the details, it gets very complicated, very quickly,” said Standish.

This year Envision expects to install 4.5 gigawatts of wind energy in China, a country where energy needs are currently exploding. That amounts to roughly 2,000 turbines or 6,000 blades. At a time of larger turbine rotors and power ratings, the company is constantly looking to make technological leaps.

“But if they don’t pay for themselves and they don’t, at the end of the day, reduce cost of energy for the customer, the end user, then it’s a no-go,” said Standish.

And he said driving down the cost of wind power is what this business is all about. “We’re just trying to continue that trend and push it harder and faster than anyone else,” he said.

For Envision employees like Kristian Dixon, there’s pride in being able to say: “I had a hand in that design, the shape of that blade is because of my work.”

Because of wind power’s increasing role in the energy mix, that work may be more important than ever.