Interview by Martin Dam Sorensen, co-founder and partner of Clean Power Hub at www.cleanpowerhub.com
Anne-Marie Howe, ADM
French Valley, California. Started in the international wind industry in 1981
Today: Owner of Sindal Market Analyst, a California-based company specializing in market intelligence targeting the global wind energy market, as well as general marketing analysis, planning and implementation.
What first motivated you to start working in the renewable energy field?
I came from the power boat industry. My father was a pioneer in fiberglass molding, so I grew up in an environment that made me familiar with the materials used in the industry.
I was motivated by an opportunity to design and implement global marketing and business plans for a Danish rotor blade company. It was, for me, a completely new market environment. I vividly remember being very impressed by the blade design.
Back then we sold primarily to Danish wind turbine manufacturers like Bonus, Nordtank, Vestas and Micon, as well as to global pilot projects.
The target markets for our marketing and business development were primarily the US — especially California – as well as Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Chile, UK, China, India, Australia and a handful of other countries.
In other words, the majority of today’s biggest wind markets were our target markets almost 30 years ago, which makes me kind of proud that we already had the vision and market knowledge back then.
What drastic changes in the wind have you seen when you look back at your career?
I’ve witnessed some major changes in a global marketplace that has had its ups and downs. However, since I started my career in the blade industry, I’m still today very focused on blade development. The changes in rotor blade design and technology are, for me, the driving force behind the continuous advancement of global wind energy markets.
In 1982, we exhibited a 7.5 metre blade at the AWEA conference in Amarillo, Texas. As we were the early pioneers of the industry the whole conference was small — I recall there were around 200 delegates. I also clearly recall how we gathered around the big box from Denmark, all excited to see the ”huge” blade inside, which was actually put on display in a hotel lobby in Amarillo.
I remember talking with the delegates from AWEA, RISOE and the manufacturers, and we asked ourselves “how big is this industry going to be?”
Of course, today we know the answer with 60- to 100- metre blades in the market. Not even the most aggressive wind people had this dream in 1981.
Considering you have experience in Europe and North America, what challenges do you see ahead?
From a market perspective, the biggest challenge will be developing the most efficient turbine technologies possible in order to meet the requirements of all potential global wind segments.
Comparing Europe and North America, who has the best wind policy and why?
It depends on the individual country and its infrastructure, tax policies and demographics. Thus, the better energy policies are those developed within a specific market based on its specific market conditions.
What opportunities do you see in the wind supply chain?
Again, we need to assess this on a geographic market level to identify the particular opportunities. If we look at the wind market over the past 30 years, countries with a strong home-grown wind turbine manufacturing supply chain all have the most wind power installed today, such as Denmark, Germany, Spain and now China. It is my belief that to build up a strong market for any renewable technology or any technology in general, you must have a very strong and supported domestic supply chain. We do not, for example, want to leave big emission footprints by shipping turbines from Denmark, Germany or China to the USA.
Over the last few years, the US market has developed a good wind supply chain. You can see that in the number of blade and tower manufacturers that have set up to meet local market demand. But the market still has a ways to go and we’ll see new companies and more technologies moving to the North American market.
Helping to support that growth is the fact that, in the US, we have more than 200 educational institutions offering training targeting the wind industry. That’s the way to go — identify the technical requirements and target the education needed to take on the future supply chain developments.
Being of Danish origin and used to wind turbines and now living in California where we hear a lot of this NIMBY around wind turbines (Not in My Back Yard) how do you feel about that?
Information and education!
That includes not only information to the company board of directors, but also information and education all the way to the end-users of electricity.
Which country do you think will have the most wind power by 2020 based on total energy consumption?
A good, but very complex, question. I cannot provide an answer as I do not have the data.
However, I would like to offer a few comments within this context. I prefer to see the power market from a holistic point of view. In today’s global power markets, all generating technologies are operating and needed to keep the world turning. Of course, very polluting power plants should be updated or replaced with better and cleaner solutions. But we cannot just shut all non-renewable plants down and rely entirely on renewable energy. It’s just not feasible. We need a diverse mix of generation technologies and renewables like wind are a fantastic supplement to the existing power infrastructure. The important thing is to maximize their use, so no matter what sector of the power industry we are from, we must be able to sit at the same table and work out a plan for a cleaner, economically viable energy future.
As you know we are excited about launching CPH which offers unique features to users, like finding and connecting directly to other energy people for improved business networking. How do you see these features benefitting the wind industry?
I see CPH as a huge benefit to people in wind energy, as I can easily search and find relevant people and make direct connections. It almost acts like a catalyst for renewable energy markets by taking part in the process but not being part of the end result. I also see CPH as an opportunity to do some cross-pollinating among different energy sectors, where one sector like wind might, with some modifications, be able to provide solutions to another renewable technology. Finally, I think CPH will have a positive effect on the supply chain for all renewable energy sectors, so I definitely recommend others join the Clean Power Hub and invite their colleagues!