These Innovators and Influencers have had such a significant impact on the wind industry that the staff of Windpower Engineering would like to celebrate their success in this first annual Innovators and Influencers of Wind Power special section.
Wouter van Kempen – president of Duke Energy Generation Services (DEGS), leads Duke Energy’s commercial business that develops, constructs, and operates renewable power facilities, and provides on-site generation for users throughout the U.S. The company owns and operates 733 MW of wind energy as part of its more than 6,500 MW of power generation assets. Van Kempen is responsible for managing the nine wind plants and adding others as needed. He came over to Duke Energy in August 2003 as managing director of mergers and acquisitions.
Before joining the company, van Kempen was employed by General Electric. He joined GE Plastics in 1993 in the Netherlands where he managed European manufacturing productivity programs. Van Kempen was named GE Plastics audit manager for Europe and Asia in 1996 after a series of promotions within GE International, GE Lighting and GE Plastics in Belgium, the Netherlands, London (U.K.), and Pittsfield, Mass. He then assumed the role of senior analyst for corporate financial planning and analysis at GE’s headquarters in Connecticut in 1998, where he was responsible for the company’s operating plans and strategic forecasts. He was named staff executive for corporate mergers and acquisitions in 1999. In this role, he was responsible for managing all aspects of acquisitions and dispositions, including deal activity for several GE divisions.
Van Kempen was born in the Netherlands in 1969 and holds dual citizenship with the United States. He graduated from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with a master of business economics degree. He has extensive business and financial training from General Electric, IMD International Switzerland, Harvard Business School and Kellogg Graduate School. He and his wife, Yolanda, and their two daughters reside in Charlotte, N.C.
Duke Energy entered the wind energy industry in 2007 with the acquisition of Tierra Energy’s wind development business. The acquisition of Catamount Energy in 2008 strengthened Duke Energy’s position as an emerging leader in wind power. The Catamount purchase included 300 MW of renewable energy in operation, including an interest in the Sweetwater project in Nolan County, Texas – one of the largest wind projects in the world. Duke Energy also gained approximately 1,750 MW of development interests throughout the U.S. and U.K. through that acquisition. Duke Energy supplies and delivers electricity to about 4 million customers in the Carolinas and the Midwest.
Gerald Fox – is leading an inspired, 43-year career with The Timken Company. The native of Canton, Ohio understands well the challenges to improve reliability and financial returns, as wind turbine builders design their next generation, multi-megawatt class machines.
Fox, a U.S. Army Veteran, made it a mission working in technology at Timken to advance the engineering of the load-bearing components inside a turbine’s gearbox, the most critical point of reliable operation. He took note of other efforts to address the longstanding problem, and focused on developing a more elegant approach for reducing the load on the rolling elements within the wind turbine gearbox, with dynamic adaption among the gears in the planetary set. By compensating for variable forces, Fox figured his design would reduce gear fatigue while also decreasing necessary size and weight of the gearbox.
The company received its first chance to prove the concept for wind energy applications in a 1.3-MW N60 Nordex turbine running offshore from Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The planetary gearbox, equipped with Timken’s Integrated Flexpin Bearing System, has been running without fail since April 2004, more than a fourfold increase in the accumulated service life compared to other designs.
“This solution creates new and substantial opportunities for wind-energy machine designers to either downsize systems or upgrade the rated horsepower of their existing machinery,” says Fox. He also notes that Timken has advanced the state of the art further with new flex-pin technology that works in closed-carrier planetary drive systems.
Looking back on the evolution of wind energy technology throughout the course of an entire career served at Timken, Fox acknowledges the pace of progress in the wind industry has seemed to advance then slow down at times, especially in North America. Having led the company’s efforts throughout the years as chief engineer for advanced application development, including wind energy, and now as chief technologist for wind energy, Fox is encouraged by increased investment in the industry and renewed demand for quality designs.
“Things are really moving fast now, and while I see many new improvements in the field, it is my belief that the perfect wind turbine has yet to be built, or perhaps conceived,” says Fox. “There is a lot of room for discovery on our way to designing the leanest and most reliable turbines.”
“Working in the field of renewable energy has been the most rewarding period of my career. I have the privilege of being part of a community made up of many talented people who share a common vision with a greater sense of purpose,” he says. “It truly is like having your cake and eating it too. I am contributing to the success of my company in an area of top priority and at the same time, I’m contributing to the higher cause of clean energy for future generations.”
Fox remains hopeful that sound engineering soon will re-solve setbacks that have impeded progress in the past. A man of action, he is already working on his next contributions, developing solutions for hybrid systems and a patented new series of low-weight modular designs to ease installation and service.
Fox has spent his 43 year career at Timken and holds 14 patents with 14 other patent applications in process, many related to the field of wind energy.
Larry Flowers’ – engineering career spans more than four decades, from his entry into the field as a plant metallurgist at Alcoa in 1967 to his current position. Flowers has led WPA, a national program to increase wind energy deployment, since 2000. He began working in the renewable energy field in 1980, joining the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as a business development manager in the thermal systems division. While at NREL, he managed projects in diverse areas such as thermal systems, building systems, active and passive buildings, hybrid power systems, and industrial applications. Before leading WPA, Flowers served as team leader for the International Village Power Project for eight years, providing technical assistance to 18 developing countries. His recent wind-energy accomplishments include:
• Led a 20-person multidisciplinary team at NREL, providing technical assistance to the WPA network
• Formed a network of 35 state Wind Working Groups and four
regional training and outreach institutes
• Created a Wind for Schools program to educate K to12 and university students through the development of university-based Wind Application Centers in 11 states.
• Formed an active educational and outreach program with public power utilities and their institutions
• Created a technical assistance program and communications network among Native American tribes
• Managed the development of high-resolution wind maps for 39 U.S. states
• Led an effort to evaluate and communicate the wind-water nexus
• Led the development and application of an economic development impact analysis tool called JEDI.
• Served as lead author of the markets and stakeholders chapter of the DOE’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report
• Coauthored more than 50 technical papers and posters
• Conducted more than 100 presentations.
• National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Award: 1992
• Midwest Research Institute’s President’s Award: 1994
• National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Van Morris Award for Excellence: 2001
• American Wind Energy Association’s Special Achievement Award: 2002
• American Corn Growers’ Hero of Agriculture Award: 2004
• U.S. Department of Energy’s Outstanding Performance Award: 2005
• U.S. Department of Energy’s Carpe Ventem Award for Leadership: 2006
• American Wind Energy Association’s Technical Achievement Award: 2008
• National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Staff Award for Outstanding Achievement: 2009
• National Wind Technology Center’s Leadership Award: 2009
Dr. Robert Thresher – Often referred to as the grandfather of American wind energy, Dr. Robert Thresher has dedicated most of his life to advancing wind energy technology and promoting the benefits of wind as a clean renewable source of energy in the United States and around the world.
More than three decades ago, Thresher laid a foundation for the advancement of wind technology and has since nurtured its development and remained a vigilant shepherd through deployment of advanced, next-generation technologies. He earned a tenured professorship in Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University where he taught courses in Applied Mechanics, and initiated pioneering researcher in the mechanics of Wind Energy Systems during the 1970’s and early 80’s.
He joined NREL in 1984 and, as the director of the National Wind Technology Center, has provided leadership for the growth of NREL’s wind program from $5 million per year at its inception, to its current level of about $40 million per year. Under his direction, the Center managed the development of advanced wind turbines with rotor diameters in excess of 90 m and power outputs exceeding 2 MW. He has published extensively and is recognized internationally as one of the leading experts in research, development and commercialization of wind technologies.
In 2008, he was appointed to the position of NREL Wind Energy Research Fellow. These appointments are reserved for outstanding scientists and engineers who have achieved exceptional or internationally recognized positions of leadership in their fields, but who wish to devote the majority of their time and energy to scientific and technological endeavors.
Dr. Thresher’s key career accomplishments include:
• Awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering by the University of Glasgow, Scotland, 2009.
• Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Wind Energy Association
• Received the Pioneer Award from the World Renewable Energy Network at the World Renewable Energy Congress VIII, 2004
• Recognized as 1997 Person of the Year by the American Wind Energy Association
Technical Advisory Roles in Public Service
• Alternate Member for the Department of Energy to the Department of the Interior’s Federal Advisory Committee for
Wind Turbine Guidelines. The Committee has the mission of developing guidelines for the deployment of wind energy that protects and minimizes impacts to wildlife. Starting February 2008.
• Member, ITI Energy Advisory Board, Scotland, UK. The Board provides high-level advice to ITI Energy’s Executive Director on strategies for developing new energy technologies that have the potential for Scottish economic development opportunities.
• Member, The Science Advisory Committee for the Development of the “California Guidelines for Reducing Impacts to Birds and Bats from Wind Energy Development”, California Energy Commission, 2006-7
Professor Ulrich Hütter – Some say 1942 was the birth of the modern wind turbine because in that year, German Professor Ulrich Hütter, then an assistant professor, finished his masters thesis titled, essentially, Rules for the Design of Wind Energy Generators. His thesis detailed the theoretical basics for modern turbines with rotors of two or three blades. Hütter’s theory for blade-element momentum, developed from his aeronautical background, is said to be current even today. His theory is still taught at the University of Stuttgart.
Hütter seemed well ahead of his time. For example, he found that a high tip-speed ratio of a rotor with slender blades delivers more power from a rotor than other designs of the day. But there were manufacture problems with the tiny airfoils in the early 1950s. There was almost no material light yet strong enough to withstand the complex dynamic forces. Today, only carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic can sufficiently reinforce the rotor enough to withstand bending loads.
Hütter picked up an idea from another German scientist, Hermann Honnef, of placing wind turbines offshore where winds are stronger and steadier. To test the location, Hütter mounted an advanced (for its day) 10 kW, three-bladed wind turbine on an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico. This design also had an unusual drive train: The rotor shaft drove bevel gears with a 1:3 ratio to a vertical shaft that ran to the bottom of the tower. Vertical built-in planetary gearing then drove a vertically positioned generator. Results from the experiment in the middle 1950s showed that at the time, wind was a better choice than a diesel engine to supplement the platform’s electricity supply.
In later experiments, he mounted a 300-kW turbine with a 52-m dia rotor on a land based tower that sported a hatch-door flush with the ground. Hütter went on to develop a series of advanced, horizontal-axis turbines of intermediate size that used modern, fiberglass and plastic airfoil blades with to cut weight, and variable pitch to boost efficiencies. This design was to reduce bearing and structural failures by shedding aerodynamic loads, rather than tolerating them as did rigid versions. One of his most innovative load-shedding features was a bearing at the rotor hub that let the rotor “teeter” in response to wind gusts and vertical wind shear. Hütter’s advanced designs compiled over 4,000 hours of operation before the experiments ended in 1968.
Here’s one last Hütter invention: A blade-root design. Its glass fibers ran from a blade’s root cylinder, around bushings of the root bolts, and back to the blade-root cylinder. The system, however, was sensitive to how it was mounted and maintenance of the bolt tension. Despite the design sensitivities, it was widely used and some still refer it as the Hütter root system.
John T. Olesen – For developing the Vestas V60-850 kW and V112-3.0 MW-3.0 MW turbines and contributing to a 6 MW offshore design, Windpower Engineering recognizes Vestas Chief Specialist John T. Olesen as a Windpower Innovator.
Olesen’s interest in all things mechanical started on a small farm in the north part of Denmark where he found working on tractors, small motorcycles, and old cars much to his liking. “In my spare time, I worked at a shop repairing cars. So it was natural to study mechanical engineering after high school. I earned an ME from Aalborg University in 1981”.
And there’s is nothing like growing up in a windy part of Denmark during an energy crunch for career inspiration. “Everybody was afraid we would run out of oil. So a lot discussion was on how to develop other energy sources. As an engineer from the windy part of the country, it was natural to become interested in wind power.”
Olesen’s main focus today is new wind turbine development. “I started back in 1983 as an engineer at NEG Micon which merged with Vestas in 2004. In 1986, I was appointed Micon’s R&D manager and have since held senior positions.”
Olesen says his career has brought him luck. “I’ve been deeply involved in the development of wind turbines, from 22 kW up to 4.2 MW. I am now involved in developing Vestas’ new 6.0 MW offshore turbine”. Looking back on his career, he says he is proud to have been a part of:
Designing the Micon 250 kW turbine in the late 1980s. Working in California from 1983 to 1985 gave
him a lot of experience. In the late 1980s, Micon introduced the three-point suspension for its drive train.
Developing the Micon 600 to 750 kW turbine in 1992. “This turbine was a major step forward in part because we introduced a water-cooled generator and cooler top. We also started to use modern simulation tools like FLEX to calculate loads and FEM models to calculate mechanical stresses. This resulted in a significant improvement in the price per kWh,” he says.
Developing the NEG Micon NM72/82-1500/1650 in 2003, later renamed the V82-1.65 MW. Olesen’s team introduced active power regulation (active stall) and wood-and-carbon composite blades.
More recently, he assisted with Vestas’ V60-850 kW turbine and the V112-3.0 MW. He says both are major advances, especially concerning reliability and quality. ‘In the old days, it was about the right size of turbine. Then, the competition was about who will have the biggest turbine. Today, it’s much more about having the highest quality to deliver the lowest cost of energy,” he adds.
As Chief Specialist, he ensures the company has the right design and sets the right technical directions for turbine developments. “But my heart really beats for designing turbines. Luckily, Vestas gives me the chance to do this.”
There is more to be done, he adds. For instance, accumulator technologies could increase the amount of wind energy that can be used. Also helpful would be ways to adjust energy consumption when there is surplus of wind energy.
“I had a leading role in developing wind turbine models that have been globally successful. Last year, I celebrated my 25th year in the wind industry. It was a big day for me because so many old colleagues showed up at a reception. But what I have always been most proud of is that all of this has only been possible with the tremendous support of my colleagues and partners. I am also pleased that young colleagues today seek my advice,” he says.
James G.P. Dehlsen – is a pioneer and leader in wind power and renewable energy. In 2001, Mr. Dehlsen and his son, Brent, co-founded Clipper Windpower Inc., where he serves as Executive Chairman. Clipper has developed the advanced technology 2.5 MW Liberty wind turbine and began manufacturing it in 2007. By 2009, production exceeded over 500 turbines. Clipper is also in development of a 10 MW offshore turbine. It is sheduled for testing in 2011 and 2012. The company also develops wind power generating projects.
Mr. Dehlsen founded Zond Corp. in 1980 and served as its CEO and Chairman of the Board. Zond pioneered wind power technology, growing rapidly to become one of the largest global companies in wind turbine manufacturing, wind power project development, and plant operation. In 2000, Enron Corp. acquired Zond, and in 2002 General Electric purchased the Zond/Enron wind business for its entry into the wind industry.
In the course of that work, Mr. Dehlsen was awarded the Distributed Drivetrain patent which forms the design basis of the Clipper 2.5 MW Liberty turbine. He has also developed ideas for a retractable blade rotor, which have resulted in patents. He holds thirteen patents and has seven more pending.
Recognition for his work in the wind industry includes the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Wind Energy Association, induction into the Environmental Hall of Fame, and the Danish Medal of Honor conferred by His Royal Highness, Prince Henrik of Denmark. Mr. Dehlsen served as an advisor to the Department of Energy’s Wind Program and testified at the first U.S. Senate hearings on global warming.
Jim and Brent Dehlsen have also established Ecomerit Technologies in 2009 for the development of new sustainability-related systems with initial emphasis on marine renewable energy.
David Blittersdorf – AllEarth Renewables, formerly Earth Turbines, is a renewable energy firm based in Williston, Vermont that designs, manufactures, and installs residential-scale wind turbines and solar PV tracking systems. David Blitersdorf is also the founder and co-owner of NRG Systems, an international supplier of wind measurement systems and turbine control sensors to the commercial wind industry. He has more than 30 years of experience in wind.
David’s interest in renewable energy began at his childhood home in Pittsford, Vermont, from where he could see Grandpa’s Knob, site of the world’s first utility-scale wind turbine. This connection helped foster his curiosity about wind energy and other renewable energy sources. Curiosity became a dedication in 1973 during the Arab Oil embargo, when gas prices shot up just after he got his driver’s license. David went on to build a wind turbine as part of his mechanical engineering degree at the University of Vermont, which he earned in 1981.
When David founded NRG Systems in 1982 from the basement of his rented house, the wind energy industry was in its infancy. Over the next two decades, the industry and NRG grew apace. Key innovations included tilt-up wind measurement towers, cellular data loggers and electrically heated anemometers for accurate, reliable data gathering in icy weather conditions.
In 2004, David stepped down as CEO to pursue his passion as an engineer, turning over sole leadership of the company to his wife who had been directly involved with the business since 1987 as its CFO. He founded Earth Turbines in 2005, returning to his first love of wind turbine design. With this second company, David aimed to develop a residential-scale, grid-connected turbine that would not require an inverter or a gearbox –two turbine components that fail most often.
After four years of R&D and testing, the Earth Turbine 2500, a downwind, 2.5 kW direct-drive induction machine, made its debut last November. The following month, David and his Earth Turbines team received a U.S. patent for the direct-drive induction generator used in the turbine. The latest iteration of the Earth Turbine is being installed at the company’s 20 test sites. Sales will start by mid-2010.
Earlier this year, the company changed its name to AllEarth Renewables, due to its broader focus on development and manufacture of wind and solar renewable energy systems.
Always committed to practicing what he preaches, David also has an 80-foot tall, grid-connected Earth Turbine in his backyard, a solar PV system on his rooftop, and one of AllEarth Renewables’ AllSun Trackers in a back field.
He served as the president of the American Wind Energy Association from 2001 to 2002, and currently serves as its treasurer. In addition to serving on the advisory boards of various other schools and organizations, David is also Treasurer of the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC), a non-profit formed to develop industry-wide, national small wind turbine standards.
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