February 2016 issue: Leadership in Wind, improve lube seals, rise of renewables + more

Showing Leadership in wind

VariLoad, Fugro Trenching, 2015 leadership winners, Wind work around North America

How a coil spring improves lube seals

Building a framework for better floating wind systems

Is a maintenance-free bolt connection possible on wind turbines?

Rise of renewables spells the decline in coal investments

Recent study shows no link between turbines and health problems

Harvesting technology intelligence mitigating IP risks

Lubrication is critical to protecting turbine components, but so is a balanced formulation

Oil debris monitor tells more about gearbox lubricant

Ontario is the first province in Canada to introduce compressed-air energy storage to the grid

Floating power station also produces fresh water

Many of us can only imagine the life of a wind tech: waking at the crack of dawn to gather tools and equipment for the day ahead before hitting up an onsite safety briefing. Afterwards, it’s time to carefully suit-up in the necessary fall-protection gear for an 80-meter-plus climb up a turbine tower. Only then, atop a nacelle, does the 10 to 12-hour workday really begin.

For Ontario-based Meredith Smith, the day might entail repairing damaged or missing turbine components, cleaning equipment, painting, or installing new hardware or software. She works construction as a wind technician, and until a few years ago didn’t believe she could (or should) work in that capacity, particularly as a woman.

But today she’s working atop 124-m high Enercon turbines in the Chatham-Kent area and, despite a moderate fear of heights, has fallen in love with her job. Friends call her brave and dedicated. But Smith simply wants to serve as an example to other women contemplating a similar career.

“As a woman, leadership is important. To me it means encouraging and empowering other women to take the leap and work in construction. I spent a long time thinking I couldn’t or shouldn’t, and I couldn’t have been more wrong!” she shared. Smith credits other women working in renewables for her decision to follow suit. She also credits organizations such as Women of Wind Energy for their support and promotion of a safe and welcoming working environment for women.

At an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference late last year, CEO Tom Kiernan noted the significance of strong leadership, and maintained it’s what’s need for the wind industry to become great on a national scale in the U.S.

He referenced the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies , and encouraged industry personnel to set what the authors labeled as “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” or BHAGs. A BHAG (pronounced bee-hag ) encourages organizations to set ambitious goals that are strategic and visionary. The Department of Energy’s Wind Vision sets one example that includes far-reaching objectives where wind power could supply 10% of the country’s electricity in 2020, 20% in 2030, and 35% in 2050.

Kiernan wants to meet those goals while setting even greater ones: “Our ultimate purpose is to be the number one electric generator in the country,” he said. Thanks to his leadership, a strong AWEA team, and the dedication of countless industry workers and technicians (like Meredith Smith), wind energy is slowly but surely becoming a North American energy leader.

A few milestones to note: U.S. wind power has passed the 70-GW mark, meaning enough wind-turbine capacity is now installed to supply over 19 million typical American homes with low-cost electricity; Canada hit seventh in the world for total installed wind-power capacity with 11,205 MW; Congress recently passed a five-year extension of the Production Tax Credit and alternative Investment Tax Credit in the U.S.; and the cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen 66% in six years.

We’d be remiss in this leadership issue to leave out an important upcoming first in the U.S. — offshore wind. It is a tribute to the dedication of developers at Deepwater Wind that construction has begun on the five-turbine Block Island project in Rhode Island waters. “We are proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in a recent press statement. “But we’ve only just begun — 2016 will be a year to remember.”

We second that comment. Kudos to all of those who work hard and set a high bar (through notable BHAGs) to support a nation powered by clean energy.

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