Wind-energy leader Vestas forges partnership with College of Engineering

April 1, 2009

by Brian Mattmiller

Vestas, the world's leading producer of wind-power technology, has entered into a long-term partnership with the College of Engineering that promises to propel wind-energy research, provide student learning opportunities and give the company a long-term presence in Madison.

Photo of wind turbines

 

"Wind energy is a growing source of new power generation in the world and the technology has even greater untapped potential," says Grainger Professor of Power Electronics and Electrical Machines Thomas Jahns, who helped establish the partnership. "By teaming with an industry leader like Vestas, our research environment will thrive, and Wisconsin will see expanded opportunities in wind energy and other renewable-energy options."

Under the partnership, Vestas will begin providing funding support this year that will grow to sponsor as many as 10 graduate and undergraduate students working on wind technology projects. The company also plans to provide visiting research fellows to campus and start a small research-and-development facility near the engineering campus that will focus on technology transfer.

"We are highly interested in working closely with leading universities worldwide in order to ensure that we maintain our position as the leading supplier of wind energy solutions. We are happy about this partnership, which we believe will help us strengthen our position as number one in modern energy," says Zoe Moore, innovation network manager of Vestas Technology R&D, who helped establish the partnership.

Gov. Jim Doyle also praised the development and its potential for the state. "Geographically, Wisconsin has the advantage of being strategically located to supply the upper Midwest with wind turbine components," Doyle says. "And the University of Wisconsin is one of the country's greatest academic institutions, with the best and brightest students and researchers. With those resources combined with our skilled workforce and manufacturing expertise, together we can become a world leader in wind energy and create the jobs of the future."

Energy research has developed into an interdisciplinary strength at UW-Madison, and the Vestas project will complement and draw from other major research taking place in bioenergy, batteries and fuel cells, solar energy and superconductivity, says Jahns, who directs the Wisconsin Power Electronics Research Center.

"The Vestas partnership is an exciting addition to the range of energy research and education at the college," says Paul Peercy, dean of the UW-Madison College of Engineering. "Wind power has the potential to serve as much as 20 percent of the nation's energy needs by 2030, and our students will be highly motivated to participate in this growth industry."

Vestas also will benefit from an established corporate community that interacts with the power engineering team. The Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC), established in 1981, features more than 65 corporate members that support pre-competitive research across a wide range of industry applications, from aviation to household appliances.

Another stage of the partnership will support named professorships or endowed chairs with expanded focus on wind-energy research and education. Vestas is committed to recruiting and retaining future talent for the wind-energy industry, so one named professorship will focus on developing new curriculum materials to support the emerging energy and sustainability fields.

The Wisconsin Department of Commerce, the Madison Office of the Mayor, and Madison Gas and Electric Co. (MGE) all offered letters of support for the project and commitments to collaborate further with Vestas. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz offered to work with Vestas and MGE in the establishment of a beta wind turbine site within the city. MGE already uses Vestas turbine technology at its two wind farms in Worth County, Iowa and Kewaunee County, Wis.

Vestas is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines and has the wind industry's largest research and development unit. Vestas has research centers in Denmark, Singapore, India and the United Kingdom, and new R&D units are being established in the United States in Houston and Boston. Vestas develops its wind turbines in-house, but also collaborates worldwide with leading universities and adjacent industries in the traditional energy and transport industry.