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Experts say wind energy industry is growing

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Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011

Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 09:11

Toren Bonde

TOREN BONDE from Vestas Wind Systems spoke to students about the growing industry of wind power and how its technology can help the environment. ROP JEPSON photo

Lack of space, lack of usable water and lack of energy are the three major problems facing the world today, according to the chief information officer the world's largest wind energy company.

"I think we easily can solve the two first ones," Torben Bonde, CIO of Vestas Wind Systems, told students and faculty Friday. "There's a lot of space. Just look out the window, there should be plenty of room for all of us. Water, there's also a lot of water. We just have to find the technology to make sure we can use all the water around us in the best way. The real challenge is energy."

According to figures from the American Wind Energy Association Website, the U.S. has the wind resource potential to generate more than 14.5 million gigawatts of energy each year. Though, currently it produces only 43,461 gigawatts

Utilizing untapped wind resources could create a significant bump in global job growth, according to a statement posted on the Global Wind Energy Council website, which states that the wind energy industry employed more than 400,000 jobs worldwide in 2008, and by 2020 could employ more than 2.2 million workers. 

Bonde said he also expects the industry to grow. By 2015, he said the Denmark-based company Vestas aims to increase its yearly revenue by more than 8 billion euros, to 15 billion euros. To meet this goal, he said, the company will seek help from students in a variety of disciplines. 

"It's a fast-moving industry, so as a graduate, a freshman, you have a possibility also to get on the fast track, cause there's really some, some new things coming up here. You're not going into something where there maybe already be a lot of people."

There are different roles to be played in the industry, Bonde said. "When I look into my line of business — the IT area — (there are) the strategists, the people that are making the architecture, the people that are developing it and of course eventually the people that are going to run it." 

In terms of employees' mindsets, Bonde said he's looking for people who take responsibility and have the ability to create.

"It's a world where the agenda changes because it is so young," he said. "So when I'm talking to Danish students, also in the universities and so on, my advice for them is, maybe it's not all this about having the technology at the best levels. That's of course also important, but it's the behavior — it's the mindset. We can work on all the skills and the technology." 

Edwin Stafford, co-director of the Center for the Market Diffusion of Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, coordinated Bonde's visit to USU. He said students with backgrounds in agriculture and engineering will also have opportunities related to the wind energy industry.


Agriculture and Wind Energy


Among those who stand to benefit most from growth in the renewable energy industry are people living in rural areas, Stafford said. 

"What's happening now, is that the agricultural industry faces interesting problems because of imports of food from other countries. Sometimes they're cheaper than what we can grow right here in the states. Agriculture is always kind of subject to droughts, to storms that might destroy crops, etc. This is kind of a hazard for the industry just in general."

"What's nice about energy," he said, "is that the agricultural industry itself can now diversify into energy on a number of fronts."

Stafford said in Germany farmers are already gleaning the benefits of energy harvesting. 

"There is a lot of farmland that farmers are using to kind of basically put up solar panels, and so that way these farmers in Germany are both growing pigs and, you know, generating electricity for utility," he said.

Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. can follow the same model, he said.

"You can put wind turbines on farms," he said. "You can continue to graze cattle under wind turbines. You can continue to grow corn and wheat and different types of crops under wind turbines. You can literally get energy income, and you can have income from your harvest of your crops." 

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