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Wind through the ages

How do windturbines work?
Windturbine projects
Where are windturbines erected?
How does wind arise?
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the ages
The entrancing power of the wind has always had a captivating effect
on man. For thousands of years, people have been particularly fascinated
by the possibility of capturing the wind and harnessing its power. This
section explains how they have been utilising the power of the wind down
through the ages.
Wind in the sails
The technique of using a sail to capture the wind and utilising its
power for propulsion is, in principle, the same today as it was 6,000
years ago, when the frst sailing vessels appeared.
Sailing vessels are propelled by the differential forces created on
each side of a sail when the wind blows across it. The underpres-
sure on the rear side of the sail interacts with the overpressure on
the front side to drive the vessel forwards.
Today, it is believed that people had learned to tame the wind as
early as in 4000 BC. At around that time, the Chinese became the
frst people to attach sails to their primitive rafts. Approximately
600 years later, the Egyptians launched their frst sailing vessels,
initially to sail the waters of the Nile. Later on, they used sailing ves-
sels to trade along the coasts of the Mediterranean. In addition, the
Viking conquests were largely attributable to their ability to build
and sail their fast ships more-or-less all over the world.
Since the invention of the steamship around 150 years ago, the
sailing ship has largely been replaced by more effcient, machine
powered vessels, particularly in the industrialised countries. Today,
sailing vessels are primarily used as a popular leisure pursuit, for
races and for schooling. However, in less developed countries, sail-
ing ships still play an important role in trade, fshing and transport.
Here, the wind remains a crucial resource.
Conquering the skies
It seems that man has always dreamed of using the power of the
wind to fy. Indeed, ancient Greek mythology features stories of
people who attempted to fy like birds.
In the ffteenth century, the genius Leonardo da Vinci devoted
much time and energy to studying the same feld. Through a series
of impressive sketches and complex wing designs, he attempted
to copy the wing movements of the birds. His wing designs would
never have helped man to fy, but today da Vincis work is consid-
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ered the frst scientifc attempt to create a fying machine.
Up and away in a balloon
For centuries, it was considered an almost irrefutable fact that in
order to fy, man would have to imitate the wings of the birds. How-
ever, it was actually a bubble of air that frst helped man to break
the hold of gravity and ascend into the clouds. The frst passen-
ger-carrying balloon lifted off in 1783. The primitive balloon was
made of canvas and powered by the smoke from a bonfre.
Since this early experiment, balloon design has been developed
and refned. Both the technology and the materials involved have
developed appreciably and today, ballooning is a hobby enjoyed by
people over much of the world.
From the very frst balloon fight, it became clear that ballooning
was linked to some element of risk. Not long after the frst balloon
fights were completed, the parachute was invented. Quite simply,
parachutes were designed to save balloon pilots who found them-
selves in diffculty. However, they were also used for entertainment
in connection with balloon displays. Today, parachutes are still
used to save lives, but parachuting has also become a popular high-
adrenaline hobby.
The ships of the air
Although ballooning had been popular for a couple of centuries,
even the most enthusiastic balloon pilots could become a little frus-
trated at having the wind decide the direction they were to follow.
Henri Giffard took a good look at this problem, and in 1852 intro-
duced the frst airship in the world. The airship was shaped like a
cigar and ftted with a small steam engine that made actual naviga-
tion possible. Airships soon became popular air liners, and in the
1920s they few people back and forth across the Atlantic. However,
a number of fatal crashes including the Hindenburg disaster, in
which the airship exploded, killing 35 passengers heralded the
end of the age of airships.
Cliding planes
It was not until the end of the 1800s that da Vincis ideas about
using wings to fy were made real. It was at that time that George
Cayley, the British engineer, drew inspiration from a simple toy: the
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kite. His observations of kites in fight convinced him that wings
could carry a human being to the skies.
He made his dream come true by building the frst simple glider
in the world. Since then, gliders have become more and more
advanced, and it is now possible to complete controlled fights.
Gliding is a popular hobby today, but there can be no doubt that
motorised aircraft dominate air traffc.
A ying machine
The frst motorised fight in the world took place in the United
States in 1903. Two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright had spent
years working to develop both their aircraft and, in particular, their
skills as pilots. Their aircraft Flyer was powered by a petrol en-
gine and on its virgin fight managed to cover just 40 metres before
landing safely on the ground.
The years that followed the fight of Flyer saw new types of
aircraft being developed at a dizzying pace, and just a few years
later, longer fights had already become common. For example,
the frst fight from France to Britain across the English Channel
was completed by an elegant little plane built in 1909. At the same
time, experiments were carried out with new, more creative aircraft
designs involving two sets of wings (biplanes) or even three sets of
wings (triplanes).
As early as the end of the 1920s, aircrafts had become appreci-
ably more streamlined. The machines were already being made of
metal and few at higher speeds, which naturally opened up a host
of new opportunities. Just a few years later, the Boeing 247 was in-
troduced; the frst modern passenger aircraft in the world. The
development of new and improved types of aircraft has fascinated
fying enthusiasts ever since the frst plane took to the skies. And
everything suggests that people will carry on developing the aero-
plane to create bigger, faster models.
The helicopter
The most advanced and versatile form of aircraft is the helicopter.
The frst primitive version of a helicopter was developed by Juan
de la Cierva, the Spanish aircraft engineer, at the start of the 1920s.
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He discovered that a rotating wing could cut through the air just
like a propeller, thus pulling the helicopter upwards. The advan-
tages of the helicopter are that it can rise vertically through the
air and hover in the same place for long periods. In addition, it
requires very little space to land.
Wind becomes electricity
The word windmill makes it plain that wind power was used to
mill grain. The word mill itself stems from the Latin word for a
machine that grinds grain: molina. Many European languages con-
tain closely related words that all have the same meaning: French
moulin; English: mill; German: Mhle; and Danish: mlle. The
interpretation of the word is thus closely linked to the primary task
of the mill for centuries.
Persian inventors drew inspiration for the windmill from looking
at the water mill. They took the mill wheel as their starting point
and attached 612 sails made of hide or reeds to an axle. They
then attached a millstone to the other end of the axle and erected
the mill on a hill, surrounding it with funnel-shaped walls to ensure
that the wind was channelled towards the mill sails. This primitive
yet effcient windmill model spread to other countries including
China, where it is still used today.
The rst windmills in Europe
The frst European windmills were built around 1100 and were
used both to grind grain and to pump water. For the agricultural
community, windmills provided invaluable assistance in grinding
grain, and in the low-lying farmland of the Netherlands, mills were
used to pump water away from the felds.
The frst windmills were erected in Denmark around the middle of
the 1200s. These mills were what are known as post mills. They
typically featured four sails consisting of a wooden frame covered
with canvas. The mill house itself was placed on a rotating base,
which made it possible for a group of strong men to turn the entire
mill construction into the wind.
The Dutch mill
Later on, people discovered that a better approach was to build
mills in which only the top of the mill tower (the mill cap) could
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be turned. This type of mill known as a Dutch mill reached
Denmark at the start of the 1700s, and in 1870 there were more
than 6,000 Dutch mills operating in Denmark. The advantage of
this type of mill was that it allowed the construction of much big-
ger mills than the old post mills, and they could also provide more
The popularity of the Dutch mills was largely attributable to An-
drew Meikle, the Scottish inventor, who developed a range of tech-
nical improvements including one that ensured that the mill cap
automatically turned to face into the wind. In addition, his devel-
opment of moveable wooden slats to replace the fxed construction
sails made it much easier to operate these mills. Today, one of the
best-preserved examples of a Dutch mill in Denmark is to be found
at Dybbl Mlle in Southern Jutland. Damgrd Mlle, which is also
in Southern Jutland, is another fne example of a Dutch mill.
Mills on Danish farms
Originally, the large commercial mills had the exclusive right to
grind grain for the farmers of the region, but in 1862, this mo-
nopoly was revoked. Farm owners were subsequently allowed to set
up independent mills on their own farms. The mill quickly became
a popular tool on Danish farms. Farm mills were not only used to
grind grain; a simple system involving a perpendicular drive linked
to a horizontal axle with a drive belt made it possible to use the
mill to power other farm machinery such as threshing machines.
On some farms, the mill was even used to pump water from the
well to a container, which ensured a supply of running water to the
taps. Mills thus took over a lot of the hard work of the farm, so it is
no surprise that they became so popular. It is not known precisely
how many mills were built in Denmark, but it is likely that in 1920,
there were between 20,000 and 30,000 mills on Danish farms.
A mill to generate electricity
In the winter of 188788, the visionary American inventor Charles
F. Brush built the frst windmill intended to generate electricity. It
was erected in Cleveland, Ohio. This windmill was not just the frst
automatically operating mill that generated electricity it was also
of a truly impressive size for the time. The rotor had a diameter of
17 metres and featured 144 cedar rotor blades.
The mill was located in the garden behind the Brush family man-
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sion, and, via a dynamo, generated power for the 12 batteries that
supplied current to no fewer than 350 incandescent lamps, two arc
lamps and three motors. This giant windmill was a peculiarity of its
age and remained in operation for 20 years. However, slow wind-
mills of this kind were gradually overtaken by the fast mills with
rotor blades, which the Danish inventor Poul la Cour discovered
were better for generating energy than the slow models.
Denmarks windmill inventor
Towards the end of the 1800s, Denmark joined the leading coun-
tries in windmill development for the frst time. It was at this time
that Poul la Cour, the greatest fgure in the history of the Danish
windmill industry, started to develop a range of inventions that
attracted considerable international attention. Before turning his
attention to windmills, Poul la Cour had already proved his skill as
an inventor by developing patented solutions in the felds of teleg-
raphy and radio.
In 1878, he was given a position at Askov College of Further Educa-
tion, and in 1891, he was awarded a grant to build his frst experi-
mental mill in the school grounds. With the construction of this
mill, he aimed to prove his theory that wind energy could be stored
by using it to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and then
using the resultant gases to power lights and motors. In the wind-
mill itself, the motion of the sails was to be used to power a dynamo
to generate electricity. This electricity was to be led into a tank of
water, which it would then separate into hydrogen and oxygen.
Each of these gases was to be stored in a separate gas tank, from
where the two gases were led in separate lead pipes from the mill
to the college lamps.
Poul la Cours workshop
Within a year of completing the frst windmill, Poul la Cour had a
new invention ready for patenting. He had developed an intricate
system of weights and pulleys that could be used to even out the
gusts of the wind to provide an even, uniform level of pressure for
transferring to the dynamo.
In 1896, Poul la Cour was awarded a grant to build an even bigger
windmill in which he could continue with his experiments and
inventions. In the spacious machine room of the giant mill, he con-
structed two wind tunnels. Here, he carried out experiments on as-
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pects such as the number of sails, speed of revolution and capacity.
He then collated the results of his wind tunnel research in a book
entitled Forsgsmllen (The Experimental Mill). It was this book
that cemented his international reputation as a windmill inventor.
Poul la Cours experimental mill at Askov, Denmark, still exists
and is a building with a long and fascinating history. In 1902, it was
made the power station for the entire town of Askov, and in 1904
it was converted into a research centre for the use of electricity in
rural areas. In this capacity, it was used as a venue for courses for
rural electricians. One of the teachers was, of course, Poul la Cour
himself. The centre was used to teach everything from practical in-
stallation work, geometry and physics, to bookkeeping, Danish and
German. Today, the experimental mill at Askov College houses the
Poul la Cour Museum and stands as a manifestation of Denmarks
trail-blazing inventions in the feld of windmills.
Windmill renaissance during the war
During the frst half of the 1900s, windmills were gradually meeting
greater and greater competition from coal-fred power stations and
the nationwide high-voltage grid, and many people predicted the
complete disappearance of the windmill. However, the two World
Wars resulted in shortages of coal and oil, so wind power found it-
self back on the agenda. Danish pioneering spirit and inventiveness
helped the windmill to develop into an even more effcient source
of energy.
The Agricco turbine
In 1918, inspired by developments within the aeronautical industry,
two Danish engineers Poul Vinding and Johannes Jensen de-
veloped a completely new type of windmill, or turbine, with blades
designed on the basis of aerodynamic principles. The new turbine,
the Agricco, which was immediately patented, featured rotating
blades that resembled an aircraft propeller. In addition, the blades
could be regulated to suit the wind speed and the turbine itself fea-
tured an automatic yaw system, which meant that it automatically
faced into the wind.
The aeromotor
During World War II, the cement group F.L. Smidth joined forces
with the aircraft company Kramme & Zeuthen to develop another
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remarkable, direct current-generating wind turbine: the Aeromo-
tor. This turbine greatly resembled the turbines we know today and
was one of the models developed as a result of the increase in inter-
est in turbines attributable to the war. The turbine tower was made
of solid concrete, while the turbine blades were slim and aerody-
Yet another Danish wind turbine genius
When, at the start of the 1900s, Poul la Cour was teaching wind-
mill/turbine technology at Askov College, one of his students was a
young man named Johannes Juul. Around 50 years later, his inter-
est in wind turbines and exciting inventions resulted in a turbine
that would prove to be the blueprint for the wind turbines of today.
Its introduction was preceded by a painstaking research project
completed by the talented inventor.
Johannes Juul did not limit himself to taking systematic measure-
ments of the wind; he also built his own wind tunnel, which he
used to test his theories and no fewer than around 25 different
blade designs. His ambition was to produce a turbine that gener-
ated alternating current and he wanted to connect an asynchro-
nous generator. However, he was well aware that this would make
completely new demands on generator size, blade dimensions and
the speed of revolution. In return, the turbine would be auto-regu-
lating and would stop automatically in high winds.
Johannes Juuls remarkably thorough preliminary work paid off,
and when the frst turbine was erected in South Zealand in 1950, it
lived up to all his expectations. For fnancial reasons, the turbine
had only two blades, but a year later, Johannes Juul added an extra
blade to a similar turbine to stabilise the construction. This new
turbine made it possible to utilise a much higher proportion of the
energy of the wind than had been possible previously.
The blueprint for the turbines of today
Finally, in 1957, Johannes Juul aged 70 could unveil the Gedser
turbine, which became the blueprint for the turbines of today. Just
north of Gedser, Denmark, a 200 kW trial turbine was installed on
top of a 25-metre-high concrete tower. The turbine featured a gen-
erator and three fxed blades stabilised with bracing wire with
rotating tips. These three principles used on the visionary Gedser
turbine became the cornerstones for Danish turbines from the
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middle of the 1970s onwards.
In 1962, long after Johannes Juul had retired, he presented a range
of visionary ideas about the wind turbine of the future. He was con-
vinced that the turbine of the future would be based on the Gedser
turbine, but that it would be improved by the use of new materi-
als such as plastic and fbreglass. In addition, he was sure that the
Danish wind turbine sector would take a dominant position on the
global market.
Large and small successes
In the years after the age of wind turbine geniuses such as Poul
la Cour and Johannes Juul, Danish pioneering spirit and interest
in wind energy have found expression in a range of wind turbine
inventions of various types.
For example, in 1975 a group of teachers and pupils at the Tvind
schools in West Jutland started work on the biggest wind turbine
in the world a project they took on without having any profes-
sional knowledge of the area. Through working relationships with
engineers centred on areas such as the blade profle, this ambitious
wind turbine project was completed three years later. The turbine
had a blade diameter of 54 metres and the concrete tower was 53
metres high. The turbine blades were replaced in 1993, and the
Tvind turbine is still operating in windswept West Jutland.
It was also in the middle of the 1970s that master carpenter Chris-
tian Riisager built a very effcient three-blade turbine with a blade
diameter of just 6.5 metres and a tower height of 12 metres. The
design was inspired by the old Gedser turbine, and Christian Riis-
ager applied for and received permission to connect his turbine
to the municipal grid. A few years later, Christian Riisager started
to sell his turbines, and a number of manufacturers started to de-
sign turbines inspired by the Riisager model.
Towards the end of the 1970s, the working relationship involving
Henrik Stiesdal, the engineer, and Karl Erik Jrgensen, the smith,
resulted in the development of the HVK pioneering turbine. This
effcient turbine featured a generator output of 22 kW as well as
a number of the properties that were subsequently to distinguish
Danish wind turbines: three free-standing fbreglass-reinforced
blades with rotating tip brakes, an electric yaw system and two
generators connected to the grid one each for high and low wind
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The turbines developed by the two mid-Jutland pioneers Karl
Erik Jrgensen and Christian Riisager on the basis of research
carried out earlier by the sector visionaries later became known
as The Danish Concept. The distinguishing features of turbines
built according to The Danish Concept were a high, slim design
with three fast-turning blades facing into the wind. The qualities of
this model were soon recognised, and this type of turbine was then
exported to most parts of the world, where it outperformed wind
turbines made by some of the largest and most advanced industrial
companies in the world. The Danish Concept became the corner-
stone of Denmarks international wind turbine success.
The Darrieus turbine
Around the end of the 1970s, a West Jutland machine factory
Vestas which, among other things, had previously concentrated
on the production of agricultural trailers and machinery, started
to investigate the potential of the wind turbine as an alternative
source of energy. Among the early experiments at Vestas was Leon
Bjernvigs vertical wind turbine. This was a variation on the Dar-
rieus turbine and resembled an upright egg whisk. However, the
Darrieus turbine never became a success.
The strong Danish foursome
At the end of the 1970s, after only limited success with the Darrieus
turbine (the egg whisk turbine), Vestas was on the lookout for a
new, effcient turbine. They found it in Henrik Stiesdals and Karl
Erik Jrgensens HVK turbine, and after months of thorough test-
ing, Vestas purchased the rights to this turbine model in 1979. The
HVK turbine thus became the forefather of the Vestas turbine
In the meantime, the oil crisis was also having an effect on the East
Jutland company Nordtank, which had previously built tankers
for the oil industry. As a result, this company started looking for a
new business area and decided to start developing wind turbines.
At the end of 1980, Nordtanks frst wind turbine was ready, and
it was unveiled at the Ungskuet fair in Herning, Denmark, that
same year. It was a robust, well-functioning turbine and featured an
innovation in that it was designed with a closed tubular tower that
made it possible to position the control and electrical installations
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in the tower itself. This simultaneously improved safety conditions
for the service technicians, who no longer had to climb up a lattice-
work tower to work on the turbine. Instead, they could use ladders
inside the tower.
In 1980, another new wind turbine manufacturer appeared on
the scene. This company, Danregn, was actually a specialist in the
area of irrigation systems, but the agricultural crisis had forced it
to seek out new business areas. At the Ungskuet fair in Herning in
1980, the Danregn management dropped by the Nordtank stand
and were inspired by what they saw. Later that same year, Dan-
regn Vindkraft launched its frst wind turbine. Danregn Vindkraft,
which was based in Brande, Denmark, later changed its name to
Bonus Energy A/S.
Finally, in 1983, Micon the fourth company in the foursome of
successful Danish wind turbine manufacturers was founded in
Randers, Denmark. Behind this company were two brothers, Erling
and Peder Mrup, who drew inspiration for their frst turbine at
the Agromek trade fair in Herning.
In the period leading up to the new millennium, these four wind
turbine manufacturers Vestas, Nordtank, Bonus and Micon
were recognised internationally as the Danish foursome of suc-
cessful wind turbine companies.
Danish turbines in California
In 1980, the state of California decreed that 10 per cent of its
energy in 2000 was to stem from wind power. At the same time, the
power stations offered to purchase electricity for a fxed price for
ten years. These initiatives triggered wind-turbine fever in the
sunshine state.
However, the Californian wind power fairytale did not get off to a
good start. The frst years were distinguished by damaged turbines,
dubious investments and fast money. The American turbines were
of suspect quality, and the wind power fairytale soon spun out of
control as investors proved more interested in tax deductions than
alternative energy.
In 1982, three Danish wind turbine manufacturers Vestas, Nor-
dtank and Bonus noticed the great potential of the American
market for wind turbines, so they all sent teams to California to sell
turbines. On account of the increase in demand from the United
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States, Danregn changed its name to Bonus in 1983 out of consid-
eration the Americans, who had diffculty pronouncing Danregn
During the wind turbine boom in California, Vestas made contact
with Zond Systems, a Californian wind power company. This re-
sulted in a working relationship between the American and Danish
companies along with contracts for Vestas to deliver turbines. Lots
of turbines.
Ups and downs
In the middle of the 1980s, Danish wind turbine exports to the
United States received a severe blow, the result of a combination
of aspects including falling oil prices, an unfavourable exchange
rate and a decline in energy policy interest in wind turbines. The
collapse of the American wind power boom had serious effects on
the Danish wind turbine manufacturers which all, with the excep-
tion of Bonus Energy, either had to suspend payments or fle for
Towards the end of the 1980s, the Danish wind turbine companies
began to see light in the darkness again. New people joined the
Boards and management teams, and this was one of the reasons
why Vestas, Nordtank and Micon all got back on their feet again.
At the same time, it transpired that the American market was not
quite as dead as it seemed, and new markets also started showing
interest in Danish turbines.
In fact, the United States turned out still to be an exciting and
attractive market for wind turbines. Around 1990, Vestas re-estab-
lished its working relationship with Zond Systems and began to
export large numbers of wind turbines to the United States once
more. In 1988, Micon managed to fnd its feet again after several
years on the verge of total collapse. This turnaround was largely at-
tributable to two orders for turbines for a Danida project in India.
Nordtank managed to recover, too. In 1987 and 1988, this compa-
ny succeeded in ramping up turbine production for both domestic
and overseas markets.
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The golden decade of wind turbines
The 1990s turned out to be a golden decade for the wind turbine
industry. The big four Danish wind turbine companies enjoyed
almost explosive growth in both turnover and employment, and
wind turbines became one of the leading Danish exports. In fact,
the Danish companies held an impressive 45 per cent share of the
global market.
The success of the Danish wind turbine sector also resulted in
increasing professionalisation of the companies themselves. This
took the form of stock exchange fotations and numerous mergers
within the sector. Nordtank became the frst Danish wind turbine
company to foat its operations in autumn 1995. Vestas preferred
to wait a little longer, before following suit in May 1998.
In July 1997, Nordtank merged with Micon to create the wind tur-
bine specialist NEG Micon.
A new millennium
At the start of the new millennium, the lines were drawn for anoth-
er exciting period for the Danish wind turbine industry. In 2002,
the American giant GE Enron purchased Wind Corp. to create a
new company, GE Wind Energy. In spring 2004, the undisputed
world leader of the wind power industry was formed when Vestas
joined forces with NEG Micon. Later that year, the German com-
pany Siemens purchased the Danish company Bonus to become a
major player on the growing market for wind turbines under the
name of Siemens Wind Power.
The text is based on the following sources:
Christopher Chant, Sejlskibe (Sailing Ships), 1992.
Andrew Nahum, Flyvemaskiner (Flying Machines), 1991.
Bjarne Chr. Jensen, Ballonfyvning, historie og historier,
(Ballooning, history and stories) 1994.
Per Dannemand Andersen, Ris Publications: Review of
Historical and Modern Utilization of Wind Power.
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the ages
Benny Christensen (Danmarks Vindkrafthistoriske Samling
The Danish Wind Power History Collection): Mindre
danske vindmller 18601980, (Small Danish Wind
Turbines, 18601980) 2001.
Jytte Thorndahl, Fra stemmegafer til knaldgas (From
tuning forks to oxyhydrogen), from Elektrikeren
Ib Konrad Jensen, Mnd i modvind (Men facing a
headwind), 2003.
Pictures of RA II by kind permission of the Kon-tiki
Museum, Oslo, Norway.
Picture of glider by kind permission of K. Krjgaard.
Pictures of biplanes and the Ciervo C.30 (autogiro) by kind
permission of the Danish Air Force History Collection,
Karup Airfeld, Denmark.
Picture of the Dutch mill (Damgrd mill) by kind permis
sion of Christen Poder.
Picture of Brundby Post Mill on Sams by kind permission
of www.moellearkivet.dk
Picture of Charles Brush with the kind permission of
Westers Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Pictures of Poul la Cour and the experimental turbines by
kind permission of the La Cour Museum.
Pictures of Johannes Juul and the experimental turbine at
Gedser by kind permission of the Electricity Museum,
Bjerringbro, Denmark.
Pictures of the farm mill (Heeager), the Agricco turbine,
the Aeromotor and the Darrieus turbine by kind permis
sion of the Danish Wind History Collection.
Picture of the Tirstrup turbine by kind permission of the
Tistrup-Hodde Parish Archives.
Pictures of the Tvind turbine and the HVK turbine by kind
permission of Benny Christensen, the Danish Wind History
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How does
wind arise?
This section explains how the wind arises and describes the weather condi-
tions suited to the erection of wind turbines.
Meteorological rules
In order to understand how the wind arises, it is important to know
some rules of physics that apply to the feld of meteorology:
1. Cold air is heavier than warm air
2. The wind blows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pres-
3. High pressure is formed when the air is cooled and sinks down
through the atmosphere (cf. rule 1)
4. Low pressure is formed when the air is heated and rises up
through the atmosphere (cf. rule 1)
5. The rotation of the Earth defects the wind to the right in the
northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere
(known as the Coriolis effect).
The sun generates wind
Imagine that an area of the Earth is heated by the sun. On account
of the non-uniform nature of the Earth, this area will be heated
more than the areas surrounding it, so the air immediately above it
will start to rise. When air rises in this manner, a vacuum-like state
is created close to the surface of the Earth, because the pressure
in this area starts to fall. The surrounding area will, however, try
to balance out the difference in pressure between the heated and
non-heated areas by moving cooler air into the vacuum. If the sun
is strong enough to maintain its heating effect and thus to con-
tinue the rising of the air wind will be generated.
The ability of wind turbines to generate energy is naturally depend-
ent on wind. The following sections explain which weather condi-
tions are favourable for wind turbines, and describe how these
weather conditions arise.
Weather conditions for wind turbines
When erecting wind turbines, it is important to be fully familiar
with the local weather conditions to ensure that the turbines in-
stalled generate as much energy as possible. Normally, wind tur-
bines are installed:
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How does
wind arise?
in places where a local wind blows frequently,
in zones where extratropical lows often pass, or
in zones where trade or monsoon winds blow.
Local winds
Wind is created through pressure differences in the atmosphere.
The greater the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind can
Local weather systems are often caused by differences in the heat-
ing of the Earths surface by the sun. One example of this is sea
breezes which, in the summer months, can arise over land close to
the sea or a large lake when the weather is clear and calm. When
the sun heats the Earths surface, the air close to the surface is
heated and rises and the wind starts to blow in from the sea or
the lake. If the air rises high enough, it will be cooled to such an
extent that it may form clouds or even rain showers. Towards the
end of the afternoon, when the heating by the sun decreases, the
wind stops blowing and the clouds disappear.
At night, the wind can turn so that it fows from the land towards
the sea (land breeze). This often occurs on still, clear nights when
the heat radiated by the Earth can pass almost unhindered through
the atmosphere to space. When the Earth radiates heat, the surface
cools down, rather like a patch of exposed skin in a cold room, or
a wood-burning stove when the fre has gone out. The air closest
to the surface is also cooled, as it transfers some of its heat to the
soil. If the process continues long enough, the air above the land
will fnally become colder than the air above the sea and a land
breeze will set in. (The sea also radiates heat into the atmosphere,
but here, the mixing of the waters almost completely negates the
fall in temperature near the surface).
Mountain and valley winds are other examples of local wind sys-
tems created by solar heating. These winds arise in mountainous
regions in clear weather. When the sun heats up the slopes of the
mountains during the day, the wind begins to fow up the slopes
and up through the valleys as hot air naturally rises. At night, when
the mountains are cooled by the radiation of heat into the atmos-
phere, the wind changes direction and fows down the slopes and
down through the valleys.
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How does
wind arise?
Winds that arise locally because of solar heating are known as ther-
mal winds. Local winds attributable to the shape of the landscape
(orography) are known as orographic winds. Mountain and valley
winds are both thermal and orographic.
Areas subject to local wind systems make good sites for erecting
turbines. When planning wind farms, a lot of work is done to fnd
precisely the places where the wind blows most strongly on moun-
tain peaks and crests, for example. However, places where the wind
gusts can be so strong that they can actually damage the turbines
are naturally to be avoided. For more information about where it is
most proftable to install turbines, see the section entitled Where
are wind turbines erected?, which you can access via the main
Extratropical low pressure systems
The generation of wind energy is not exclusively limited to areas
with local wind systems. Most of the wind turbines in the world are
sited in what are known as the westerlies the broad zones north
and south of the tropics where the wind typically blows from the
west and large passing lows and storms (also called extratropical
cyclones) determine wind and weather conditions. Around such
low pressure systems there is plenty of energy for wind turbines to
exploit. In the southern hemisphere, the zone of the westerlies has
been named The roaring forties on account of the very strong
winds that blow here.
Westerly winds and extratropical lows occur because the sun heats
the Earth differently at different latitudes. In the low latitudes,
solar heating is generally stronger than the cooling attributable to
the radiation of heat to space. In higher latitudes, the reverse ap-
plies. Extratropical lows occur as waves in the zone known as the
polar front that separates hot and cold air. Due to the rotation of
the Earth, winds do not blow directly towards areas of low pressure,
but are defected so that they blow around these areas anticlock-
wise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern
hemisphere. This is known as the Coriolis effect (cf. rule no. 5).
Trade winds and monsoons
Closer to the equator, tropical and subtropical wind systems the
trades and the monsoons dominate. The trade winds blow across
the sea from the subtropical areas of high pressure to be found
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How does
wind arise?
around latitudes 30 north and south of the equator, and in to-
wards the area of low pressure in what is known as the intertropical
convergence zone close to the equator. The rotation of the Earth
defects the wind to the right in the northern hemisphere (the
north-east trades) and to the left in the southern hemisphere (the
southeast trades), cf. rule no. 5.
The monsoons are thermal winds on a large scale. They blow in
from the sea across the subtropical continents in the summer, and
in the other direction in the winter. The countries of South-east
Asia and those around the Indian Ocean are particularly affected
by the monsoons the south-west monsoon in the summer and the
north-east monsoon in the winter.
The shape of the landscape
The shape of the landscape has a signifcant effect on the strength
and stability of the wind. The more uneven the landscape, the
more unstable the wind. In this context, we are referring not only
to the large-scale formation of the landscape with mountains and
valleys (the orography), but also to the small-scale unevenness
of the surface (the roughness). An area of woodland or a built-
up area will be rougher than an open feld, which, in turn, will
be rougher than the surface of the sea or a lake. The rougher a
surface, the more it will hinder the wind by creating more fric-
tion. Therefore, the wind blows more strongly over the sea than
across the land; and more strongly over open land than in wooded
or built-up areas. For additional information about orography
and roughness, see the section entitled Where are wind turbines
erected?, which you can access from the main menu.
When erecting wind turbines, it is best to choose a site where the
wind can blow freely over the turbines from all directions. That is
why turbines are typically erected away from towns. To generate the
most energy, it is best to erect the turbines at offshore sites but
this is a more complicated and costly process.
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How do
Wind turbines use the energy in the wind to generate electricity. This
section traces the route energy follows from the wind itself, through the
turbine and out into the grid and then on to households in the form of
electrical current. It also describes how turbines regulate their output to
prevent overloading in high winds.
The main components of a wind turbine
Wind turbines consist of four large main components: a founda-
tion unit, a tower, a nacelle (turbine housing) and a rotor. In
principle, the foundation unit takes the form of a giant concrete
block buried in the earth. The nacelle is positioned at the top of
the tower, and the rotor is attached to the front of the nacelle.
Click the picture to the right to build your own wind turbine. Click
the turbine foundation to call up the various components.
The principal task of the tower is to raise the nacelle high into the
air because the wind speed and thus the power of the wind is
much greater 50100 metres above the ground. The tower is also
used to guide the cables from the nacelle down to the electrical
grid in the ground. The nacelle contains the large primary com-
ponents such as the main axle, gearbox, generator, transformer,
control system and electrical cabinet. The rotor consists of a hub to
which three blades are attached.
From wind to current
Wind turbines use the power of the wind to generate energy. This
happens when the blades on the rotor capture the wind, which
makes them turn. When no wind is blowing, the turbine will adjust
the blades to an angle of 45, which is the position in which the
turbine can draw as much energy as possible from gentle winds.
The blades begin to turn very slowly, without generating any en-
ergy. This is known as idling. When there is suffcient wind for
the turbine to start generating energy normally at wind speeds of
around 4 metres per second, the blades will gradually start to rotate
longitudinally towards an angle of 0, which means that the broad
surface of the blade is facing into the wind. When the wind then
strikes the blade, it generates overpressure on the front surface of
the blade and underpressure on the reverse. In other words, the
wind pushes onto the front surface and simultaneously generates
a suction effect across the rear surface and it is this difference in
pressure that makes the rotor turn. Wind turbines typically gener-
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How do
ate energy at wind speeds of 425 metres per second. When tur-
bines are generating electricity, the rotor speed will be 919 revolu-
tions per minute, depending on the wind speed and the turbine
type. At the maximum speed of revolution, the blade tips reach a
speed of 250 km/h.
Blades and wind speed
Click the picture to the right to see the relationship between wind
speed and the position of the blades.
The nacelle components
The wind thus causes the rotor to turn, converting the energy in
the wind into rotating, mechanical energy. This rotating, mechani-
cal energy is channelled to a gearbox in the nacelle. From there,
the energy fows to a generator, where it is converted into electri-
cal energy. The purpose of the gearbox is thus to convert the slow
speed of rotation of the blades into the high speed of revolution
of the generator. This conversion is performed at a ratio of 1:100,
which means that if the blades are rotating at a speed of 15 revolu-
tions per minute, the generator will rotate at 1500 revolutions per
minute (depending on the type of turbine). Through this process,
the generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Connection to the grid
The electrical control system in the turbine links up the genera-
tor, leading the electrical output generated through a high voltage
transformer to the grid, which supplies current to households. In
just 23 hours, a V90-3.0 MW turbine can generate enough electric-
ity to cover the annual consumption of an average Danish house-
hold. This means that in a year, a turbine of this type can cover the
electricity requirements of around 3,400 Danish households.
Wind turbines are designed to ensure that their rotors always face
into the wind. This process is controlled by a wind vane positioned
on the top of the nacelle. This instrument determines the direc-
tion of the wind just like a weather vane. When the wind changes
direction, a contact is activated in the wind vane, initiating the
motors that turn the turbine into the wind. This is known as yaw.
Turbine blades can also pitch i.e. turn on their longitudinal
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axes so as to adjust to the wind speed. This ensures that the blades
always capture as much of the power of the wind as possible, thus
generating as much energy as possible.
Wind turbines are designed to function optimally in wind speeds of
425 metres per second. In other words, turbines will always reap
the maximum amount of energy from the wind at wind speeds
within this range. The volume of energy a wind turbine can gener-
ate depends on factors such as the size of the generator, the dimen-
sions of the rotor and the strength of the wind. For example, a V90-
3.0 MW turbine, which has a rotor diameter of 90 metres, starts
to generate power in wind speeds as low as 4 metres per second,
and achieves its maximum power output (3 MW) at 15 metres per
second. When the wind speed reaches 4 metres per second, the
angle of the blades will be 0 so as to ensure that the turbine draws
as much energy as possible from the wind. When the wind speed
reaches 1012 metres per second, the blades will rotate longitudi-
nally away from the wind slightly to prevent the turbine generat-
ing more energy than its components are dimensioned for. This is
known as output regulation.
Output regulation
There are three ways to regulate output:
1) Passive stall: The turbine operates with a constant speed of
revolution and has non-adjustable blades. In this case, aerodynam-
ics will force the blade profle to stall, i.e. to generate turbulence
which limits uplift and thus stops the turbine drawing energy from
the wind. This will occur at wind speeds in excess of 1215 m/s,
depending on the turbine type.
2) Active stall: The turbine operates with a constant speed of revo-
lution but has adjustable blades. In this case, the turbine regulates
output by turning the rear edge of the blades into the wind to pro-
duce a stall effect at wind speeds in excess of 1215 m/s.
3) Pitch: There are two types of pitch-based output regulation:
- Pitch: The turbine operates with a constant speed of revolu-
tion and has adjustable blades. In this case, the leading edge of the
blade is turned into the wind to reduce uplift.
- Variable speed pitch: The turbine operates with a variable
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speed of revolution and has adjustable blades. In this case, the
leading edge of the blade is turned into the wind to reduce uplift.
The turbines in the Vestas range use only variable speed pitch and
active stall to regulate output.
Shut-down in high winds
If the wind reaches speeds in excess of 25 metres per second,
the turbine stops because such speeds place too much strain on
turbine components. At the same time, wind speeds only rarely
exceed the stop limit, so there is little need to generate energy
from winds blowing at higher speeds. It would therefore be pro-
hibitively expensive to design a model that could handle such high
wind speeds. When wind speeds exceed 25 metres per second, the
blades pitch to 90, which means that the leading or rear edges of
the blades (depending on the output regulation principle applied)
point directly into the wind. This makes the blades function as gi-
ant air brakes, slowing the turbine down until it comes to a com-
plete stop.
Vestas technologies
The technologies Vestas uses for output and generator regulation
Active Stall: a hydraulic active stall technology that ensures that
the rotor captures the maximum amount of energy from the wind
while simultaneously minimising load on the turbine design and
controlling turbine production. This technology is used in the V82-
1.65 MW turbine.
OptiTip: a microprocessor-controlled pitch regulation system
that constantly adjusts the angle of the blades to the optimal posi-
tion in relation to the prevalent wind. This technology is used in
all the turbines from the Vestas range other than the V82-1.65 MW
OptiSlip: a generator system that makes possible a variation of up
to 10 per cent between the speeds of revolution of the blades and
generator in the event of powerful gusts of wind. In addition to
minimising load on the turbine components, OptiSlip also con-
tributes to a signifcant improvement in power quality. OptiSlip
turbines are also ftted with OptiTip. The V80-1.8 MW turbine is
the only model in the current Vestas range to use OptiSlip.
OptiSpeed: a development of the OptiSlip technology. OptiS-
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peed allows the rotation speed of turbine blades to vary by up
to 60 per cent, thus optimising energy generation especially at
modest wind speeds. In addition, OptiSpeed makes it possible
to adjust noise levels to match local requirements. As the variable
speed of revolution reduces load, the OptiSpeed system minimis-
es strain on the gearbox, blades and tower. OptiSpeed turbines
are also ftted with OptiTip. OptiSpeed technology is used in all
turbines in the Vestas range except the V82-1.65 MW and V80-1.8
MW models.
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From start to fnish, wind turbine projects can be divided into three main
phases: a sales phase, a project phase and a service phase. This section
presents an overview of some of the activities that take place in each of
these three phases.
The sales phase
In the context of the sale of a wind turbine project, the initial
contact between the customer and Vestas may be established in dif-
ferent ways. For example, the customer may contact Vestas directly,
or the project may be put out to tender. However, before any wind
turbine project can be implemented, the authorities must grant
Direct contact
Some customers prefer to work with specifc manufacturers and
therefore contact them directly. This preference may be based on
factors such as the manufacturer operating local production, being
a leading player within the sector, or simply because the customer
enjoyed a good working relationship with the manufacturer during
previous wind turbine projects.
When a wind turbine project is put out to tender, the customer
wishes to receive tenders for the execution of the project from
several different manufacturers. There are two types of tendering:
open and closed.
In open tendering also known as public tendering manufactur-
ers contact the customer who has put the wind turbine project out
to tender. In contrast, the closed tendering approach involves the
customer inviting selected manufacturers to bid for the wind tur-
bine project. This approach may, for example, be chosen because
only the selected manufacturers have the necessary technological
competence, or because the turbines must be of a given size due
to the conditions at the site in question. It may also be chosen
because there is no direct requirement for open tendering, which
generally costs more than a closed process.
When putting a project out to tender, the customer prepares a
set of material, which contains the information the manufacturer
needs to prepare a tender for the project. This information may,
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for example, comprise technological requirements, a description
of the conditions at the site where the turbines are to be installed,
delivery schedules and the like.
Tendering processes are run according to fxed procedures. For
example, all the tenders from the various manufacturers have to be
delivered to a specifc address by a specifc time on a specifc day.
Once all the tenders have been submitted, the customer chooses
a supplier. In the same way as the fxed procedure for submit-
ting tenders, there are rules governing the deadline by which the
customer is to make the choice and inform the preferred supplier.
Once the supplier who has won the tender and thus the contract
has been informed, the actual contract negotiations can begin.
Negotiating the contract
When negotiating a contract, Vestas and the customer lay down the
conditions that are to be included in it. For example, these may in-
clude the project price, terms of payment and delivery, as well as a
range of technological conditions such as tower type, tower height,
monitoring system and so on.
Contact negotiations are often protracted and can sometimes take
several years to conclude. The duration of the negotiations de-
pends on factors such as the size of the project, whether the cus-
tomer is a new or existing customer (who will already be familiar
with the process), and the options for fnancing the project.
Choosing the type of turbine
It is crucial to the proftability of the wind turbine project that the
customer choose the type of turbine best suited to installation at
the site in question. In order to establish what type of turbine is
best suited to the site, it is necessary to study information about the
wind conditions and the features of the landscape at the site. For
additional information about choosing the type of turbine, see the
section entitled Where are wind turbines erected?, which you can
access from the main menu.
Permission from the authorities
National authorities have a lot of infuence on the implementation
of wind turbine projects. Before the project can be implemented,
the customer bears the responsibility for applying for and receiv-
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ing all the necessary permits from the authorities.
The authorities lay down requirements concerning aspects such as
the height of the turbines and their positioning in the landscape.
The authorities also issue construction permits to the customer,
defne the criteria for connecting the wind turbines to the national
grid, and lay down the safety requirements. For example, all the
foundations for turbines erected in Taiwan and Japan have to be
designed according to the legislation pertaining to earthquakes.
Close collaboration with the customer
Throughout the sales process, Vestas works closely with the cus-
tomer so closely, in fact, that the working relationship can best
be described as a partnership. Vestas has a network of agents, sales
companies and offces that covers the entire globe. This helps en-
sure that Vestas has in-depth knowledge of local conditions on the
various markets and, in particular, is fully familiar with the culture
in the customers country. For this reason, sales staff are always
frmly linked to a limited number of markets to help them build up
the best possible knowledge of the local conditions and culture.
In the sales phase, the sales staff naturally play a central role. Their
task is to help the customer with, for example, information about
the product and the site, and to inform the customer about fnanc-
ing options. The intention here is to boost confdence in Vestas
and Vestas products and, at the same time, to assist the customer
in collecting the required approvals and fnding the necessary
fnancing. The overall aim is to ensure that the customers project
can be implemented as effciently as possible.
The project phase
Once the contract has been negotiated and signed, the sales phase
draws to a close. The project then moves into the actual project
phase, which comprises everything from logistics and transport to
the erection and commissioning of the turbines. The project phase
is distinguished by stringent requirements for planning and fex-
Transfer to the project manager
The transfer from the sales phase to the project phase is marked
by a hand-over meeting and a kick-off meeting. The sales team and
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the project manager participate in the hand-over meeting. Very
often, the project manager will have been involved in the fnal
stages of the sales phase, and at the hand-over meeting, the project
is formally transferred to the project manager. The purpose of this
meeting is to examine all the signifcant, practical details concern-
ing the project. These typically include:
division of responsibility (for what areas are the customer
and Vestas each responsible?)
special agreements, if any
After the hand-over meeting, the project manager is equipped to
take control of the project and can start to collect information and
initiate assignments.
The kick-off meeting involves the sales team, the project manager
and the customer. At this meeting, the customer and project man-
ager are formally introduced. The meeting also marks the start of
the planning for the subsequent stages of the project phase, and is
used to defne the practical facilities that need to be established for
the service technicians who are to work at the site. This involves,
for example, setting up the site offce, telephone lines, ADSL con-
nection, toilet facilities and, possibly, a canteen.
After the kick-off meeting, the work on the project phase begins in
The frst period of the project phase focuses largely on aspects
such as logistics and transport. Vestas logistic department is re-
sponsible for ensuring that all the turbine components (nacelles,
blades, hubs and towers) are ready for transportation to the site
on time. Vestas transport department has ultimate responsibility
for organising and co-ordinating the transportation of the turbine
components from Vestas production facilities to the site.
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The entire process is monitored by the project manager, who co-
ordinates input on the basis of reports from the logistic and trans-
port departments. The project manager will often be present at the
dispatch of a large number of wind turbines to make sure that the
components are loaded properly to prevent damage in transit.
As a general rule, Vestas is responsible for the transportation of the
wind turbines from the production facilities all the way to the site.
Depending on the location of the site, the components are typical-
ly transported by lorry, ship or train. Visit the Vestas Cinema, which
you can access from the main menu, to see a flm about how wind
turbines are transported.
Preparing the site
Before the turbines arrive, the site is prepared to receive the vari-
ous components so that the work to erect the turbines can start
as quickly as possible. The cranes and lifting equipment must be
in position, and the foundations which were laid at the site in
advance must have hardened.
If the project is what is known as a turnkey project i.e. a project
in which Vestas is also responsible for establishing the infrastruc-
ture at the site Vestas subcontractors will have started work at the
site many months before the turbines arrive. The reason for this
is that it is often necessary to make comprehensive changes at the
site. For example, transformer stations have to be installed, new
roads have to be laid, and cable connections have to be established.
It is essential that the large, heavy lorries that transport the turbine
components can access the site via a solid road network. In addi-
tion, the electricity cables have to be buried and led up through
the foundations.
The site itself is not the only thing that has to be prepared for the
arrival of the turbines. The site personnel have to get ready, too.
They must be thoroughly prepared for the task and informed of all
the signifcant details of the project. Preparation of the site person-
nel is quite simply crucial to the success of the project.
Erecting the turbines
When the turbine components arrive at the site, the erection work
itself can begin. It is not a good idea to wait until all the turbine
components have arrived before starting the erection work. On
the contrary, the various turbines are erected as soon as the rel-
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evant components arrive. It is essential to ensure that the work is
performed as effciently as possible, as there are appreciable costs
linked to having cranes and other lifting equipment at the site.
Firstly, the tower, which consists of several sections, is installed on
top of the foundations. Then the nacelle is hoisted to the top of
the tower, and fnally, the hub and blades are ftted to the nacelle.
The rotor (the hub and blades) can be lifted into position as a
complete unit, or the hub can frst be ftted to the nacelle, with the
blades subsequently being hoisted one at a time and connected
to the hub. When a turbine has been erected, the work is far from
fnished, as the cable work still has to be completed.
Visit the Vestas Cinema, which you can access from the main menu,
to see a flm about how wind turbines are erected.
Connection to the grid
As the turbines are erected, they are consecutively commissioned
and made ready for connection to the grid. Before the turbines are
handed over to the customer and offcially connected to the grid,
they are subjected to a thorough test phase which involves operat-
ing without error for a set number of hours and then being con-
nected to the grid for a specifc period (the number of hours may
vary according to the terms of the contract).
Once all the turbine tests have been completed successfully, what is
known as a Take Over Certifcate (TOC) is issued and the project
can be handed over to the customer. The TOC serves as documen-
tation that the customer has received the project as agreed in the
Various challenges can arise during the project phase. That is why
the key concepts of any wind turbine project are planning and fex-
ibility. A great many factors are involved, and they must all com-
bine to create a coherent whole. Unfortunately, not everything can
be controlled.
For example, the weather plays a signifcant role. If the wind tur-
bines are to be transported by ship, the weather largely determines
whether the turbines arrive on time. The weather also exerts its
infuence during the erection phase: if the wind is too strong, it is
not possible to raise the components, and work has to be stopped
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for a while. This means that it is essential to remain fexible and to
go the extra mile while the weather is good.
Other factors that can delay projects include applying for driving
permits for the heavy transport vehicles, and clearing customs at
the border which sometimes takes a long time.
Therefore it is essential always to think ahead and to be ready to
change plans to avoid major delays in the work.
The service phase
The service phase begins when the wind turbine project has been
handed over to the customer. During this phase, the service de-
partment makes sure to monitor the wind turbines and maintain
contact with the customer. Before the service department formally
takes over responsibility for the wind turbine project, a meeting is
held between the project manager and a service manager. At this
meeting, the wind turbine project is examined in detail so that
the service manager is thoroughly briefed on the progress of the
project to date and on all the signifcant details of the project.
Service visits
A number of service visits are performed at regular intervals during
the 2-year warranty period that applies to Vestas turbine models.
During each visit, the service technicians follow a set procedure. In
fact, they have a checklist to follow. During service visits, the techni-
cians tighten all the bolts, lubricate the rotating parts (the genera-
tor and blade bearings, for example) and check to see whether any
parts need replacing.
As a part of all service visits, the technicians check the wind turbine
blades and take an oil sample from the gearbox for subsequent
analysis. Technicians conclude all their service visits by cleaning
the wind turbines internally. During fnal service visit, the
service technician performs a complete examination of all the
wind turbines in the project to make sure that none of the turbines
contains any defects when the warranty period expires.
Training service technicians
Vestas trains its own service technicians, all whom have to complete
a comprehensive training course before being allowed to work
on installed turbines. All technicians receive the same training to
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ensure that the service visits are always performed in the same way
and always meet Vestas standards no matter where in the world
the turbines may be located.
During the training course, technicians acquire in-depth knowl-
edge not only of wind turbine technology, but also of safety regu-
lations. The technicians have to pass a course which involves, for
example, learning how to climb around in turbines in a safe and
responsible manner. Safety is extremely important particularly
when a service technician is working on top of an installed nacelle.
As all Vestas service technicians have completed the same training
course, they can all work on any site. Very large sites will often have
a group of technicians permanently attached. The number of asso-
ciated service technicians depends on the size of the site, and some
sites have teams of up to 20 technicians. The advantage of having
technicians permanently linked to large sites is that it allows these
technicians to build up in-depth knowledge of both the turbines at
the site and the site itself.
In addition to the technicians who live and work on individual
markets, Vestas employs a number of travelling service technicians.
These technicians travel around to work on sites all over the world.
Travelling service technicians spend much of their time working
away from home. Some can spend up to 250 days a year abroad.
The advantage of employing travelling service technicians is that
it improves fexibility. As a general rule, travelling service techni-
cians work on small sites that do not have a permanent team of
technicians. They can also travel to sites where extra manpower is
required for a set period of time.
Even though travelling service technicians are always on the move,
great emphasis is placed on close contact with the Vestas service
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The implementation of a wind turbine project is always preceded by
months of measurement of factors such as wind speed and wind direction
at the intended site. This section explains the factors used to determine
whether a site is suitable for wind turbines, and those that defne the type
of turbine used.
Measuring wind resources
When establishing whether an area is suitable for installing wind
turbines, it is naturally essential to make sure that there is suff-
cient wind. The frst step is to fnd out whether there are any data
available from previous studies of the wind in the area, or whether
there are any existing wind reports including maps of the wind re-
sources at the site. It is also a good idea to speak to local residents,
who often have a good sense of the wind conditions in the region.
Once it has been established that an area has reasonable wind
potential, one or more measuring masts are erected, depending
on the size of the planned project. These masts are typically 4080
metres high, with measuring equipment installed at 35 different
heights. As a general rule, to obtain the best results the measuring
masts should be as high as the turbines are expected to be.
The actual measurement of the wind resources is carried out by
several wind meters (cup anemometers), which are attached to the
measuring masts at different heights. The primary intention here
is to measure the wind shear at the site. Wind shear is an expres-
sion for the ratio between the increase in wind speed and the
increase in height. It is important to measure wind speed at various
heights to make it possible to calculate how much it increases. This
measurement is used not only to calculate how much energy the
turbines will generate, but also to establish the loads to which the
turbines will be subjected.
Measuring wind direction
In addition to measuring the wind speed, it is also essential to es-
tablish the direction from which the wind typically blows. What are
known as wind vanes are used for this purpose. These are instru-
ments that function according to the same principles as a weather
The anemometers and wind vanes are connected to a battery-pow-
ered data logger that processes the data and stores them on a mini-
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hard disk. Wind data are measured at regular intervals, typically of
10 minutes. It is recommended to take measurements for at least a
year in order to collate suffcient information to make it possible to
calculate the mean annual wind speed. The wind speed measured
is presented as a function of the wind direction in a circular graph
(a pie chart) divided into twelve sections of equal size. This dia-
gram is also called a wind rose and illustrates the wind speed, the
directions from which the wind blows, and the dominant direction.
The wind direction is principally used to determine how the tur-
bines are to be positioned in relation to each other. The necessary
distance between the turbines and rows is, in fact, heavily depend-
ent on not only the wind speed, but also the wind direction as it is
important to ensure that the turbines do not generate turbulence
or block the wind for each other.
Ensuring protability
Measuring the wind for a year thus helps defne the annual mean
wind. This is the value that primarily provides the basis for calcu-
lating how much power a wind turbine will be able to generate.
However, the annual mean wind can vary greatly from year to year
by up to 20 per cent which translates, as a rule of thumb, into
variation in energy generation of approximately double that fgure,
i.e. 40 per cent.
Such a large margin of uncertainty would result in serious prob-
lems in calculating the proftability of the project. This, in turn,
would make it very diffcult to fnd the fnancing required. There-
fore, it is common to use long-term data from a reference mast,
which measures wind conditions over a 20-year period. Using data
from such a reference mast, it is possible to calculate the average
wind speed for the entire 20-year period. When data from the
measuring masts overlap those from the reference mast, the annual
mean wind for the specifc year is corrected to the average wind
speed so as to make it possible to forecast the mean wind for the
coming 20 years. This is known as long-term correlation.
In Denmark, a reference mast could be one of the DMI (Dan-
ish Meteorological Institute) weather stations that have been set
up all over the country. In other countries it could be one of the
measurement masts set up by the public authorities or installed
in connection with an airport. Wherever such masts are available,
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attempts are made to access the relevant data so as to minimise the
risk of incorrectly forecasting the production of a future wind farm
or, as a worst-case scenario, installing the wrong type of turbine for
the site resources. Data from a reference mast often reduce the
level of uncertainty linked to calculations based on information
from just one year of measurements.
Wind conditions for each turbine
It is important to establish the wind conditions not only around the
measuring mast itself, but also in every single place where a wind
turbine is to be erected. In order to determine the areas richest
in energy at the projected site, it is necessary to draw up a wind-
stream feld, otherwise known as a wind resource map. To do
this, the WAsP calculation tool can be used. This tool not only uses
information from the measuring mast, but also takes into account
factors that affect the wind such as the roughness of the terrain
(plants, trees, buildings, etc.) and the orography of the region
(the contours of the landscape in the form of hills and/or moun-
tains). The difference between orography and roughness is that
orography focuses on the contours of the landscape, whereas
roughness is centred on everything that is built on or grows on
the landscape. Together, roughness and orography produce what is
known as the topography (the surface shape) of the area.
As from a height of around 1,000 metres above ground level, the
wind is not affected by the conditions on the ground, but the closer
to the earth the wind comes, the more it is affected and slowed
by uneven features of the landscape such as buildings and trees.
Roughness is defned according to what are known as roughness
categories that run from Class 0 (sea surface) to Class 4 (high,
dense woodland or large cities with skyscrapers). For additional
information about roughness, click the following link: www.wind-
The wind is also affected by the orography (contours) of the land-
scape. Generally speaking, the wind blows more strongly at higher
altitudes, so it is often best to position wind turbines on the peak or
crest of a mountain. When the wind blows over a mountain crest,
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the wind is often subject to compression. This compression triggers
a speed-up effect also called an acceleration which means that
even a wind that is gentle at the foot of a mountain can become
very strong at the peak. However, it is important to remember that
the energy in the wind is also dependent on the density of the air
and that density decreases as altitude increases. When the den-
sity drops, so does the amount of energy in the wind, which is a
factor that is mainly a problem in high mountains. In Denmark,
the National Survey and Cadastre publishes a contour map of the
landscape which the WAsP calculation program converts into a 3D
fow domain.
The WAsP calculation program thus uses information from three
sources to predict wind speeds at a given site data from the
measuring mast, information about the roughness of the area and
a contour map converted into a 3D model. Using this information,
the program can simulate wind conditions at every single spot on
the site, making it possible to calculate the energy production of
each turbine.
In parallel with the measurement of wind conditions at the site,
work is also done to answer the following questions:
1. What are the options for grid connection? Will it actually be
possible to deliver the power? Are there any connection options
relatively nearby? (As a rough rule of thumb, a project can accom-
modate the construction of one kilometre of grid connection cable
per installed MW. However, this depends to a great extent on the
area, the project itself, etc.)
2. Is the project proftable, and are there enough investors?
3. Will the local and national authorities issue the permits neces-
sary to install turbines in the area?
Choosing the type of turbine
Numerous parameters come into play when choosing the optimal
type of turbine for a specifc site. The most common are listed
1. Are there any local restrictions regarding turbine height, noise
levels, nature conservation and the like?
2. Does the turbine meet requirements from the authorities (IEC,
for example)?
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3. Is there any risk of earthquakes, typhoons or other extreme,
external infuences?
4. Is it physically possible to transport the turbine components to
the site, or does the infrastructure place limits on turbine size?
5. Is it possible to access the required crane capacity locally, or will
cranes also have to be transported long distances to the site?
The turbines have been designed in accordance with international
wind turbine standards to ensure that they are products of inter-
national quality. In fact, the turbines have been designed accord-
ing to standards laid down by GL (Germanischer Lloyd) and IEC
(International Energy Center) two almost identical approval
The IEC standard comprises four categories that divide the tur-
bines into different levels which refect the design loads of the
turbines or, in other words, how much the turbines can withstand
during their 20-year service lifetimes. The table below lists some of
the principal parameters that apply to turbine design. Please note
that there are many other parameters of signifcance to the overall
load calculation.
IEC Cat-
mean wind
(20 years)
50-year wind
50-year wind
10-minute av-
According to manu-
facturers design
According to manu-
facturers design
According to manu-
facturers design
IEC1 <10 <70 <50
IEC2 <8.5 <59.5 <42.5
IEC3 <7.5 <52.4 <37.5
IEC S: stands for site specifc, which means that the turbine is
approved for a specifc project, taking into account the factors ap-
plicable here, and not according to the other fxed categories. This
category requires new approval for each project, in contrast to the
other approvals which apply to all sites that meet the requirements
for the other categories.
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The principal reason why IEC 1 turbines are not simply used for all
sites is that they are over-dimensioned for many sites, which, for ex-
ample, means more expensive components. Using IEC 1 turbines
for projects involving sites with less strong winds would, for exam-
ple, result in the projects being less proftable or even unproft-
able. Using the right type of turbine for each site makes it possible
not only to reduce costs for the project but also to cut noise levels
and improve production from the turbines.