Catching the Wind of the World (the Aerodyn Story)—a Review

By Paul Gipe

Den Wind der Welt einfangen is part of series of retrospectives being issued by pioneers in the field of wind energy as they near retirement. Written by freelance journalist Dierk Jensen, Catching the Wind of the World (the English title) traces the growth of a German company that designs wind turbines: Aerodyn.

That a group of engineers could carve out a niche for themselves designing wind turbines is significant on its own and probably could only happen in Germany—and more specifically that hotbed of wind engineering in northern Germany. There’s nothing like Aerodyn in North America or the British Isles.

I first came across them at conference in Europe sometime in the 1990s and when I asked what they were doing there they said simply, “We design wind turbines.” When I pressed them further, they said they designed wind turbines for private clients and the clients actually built the turbines. I was doubtful. After all, some of the biggest companies in the world had failed miserably designing their own wind turbines. How could a group of young engineers just go off and design wind turbines without the backing of a McDonnell Aircraft or a GE? I guess I looked dumbfounded so they quietly pointed out some of the wind turbine manufacturers at the show and said they’d designed the turbines. To add to the luster, they told me they had designed one 1.5 MW wind turbine on display at the conference. And they did it in less than six months!

Newcomers to wind energy, but especially English-speaking newcomers have no idea of the ferment that was taking place in wind turbine design in northern Germany and Denmark during the 1980s and 1990s. The engineers and experimenters of the day had a “can do” attitude that once characterized Americans. These young men—and women—saw a need and set out to fill it. This was a time when students were building the giant multimegawatt turbine at Tvind in Denmark and Alloys Wobben was starting Enercon. This was the milieu that a group of young engineers in Schleswig-Holstein found themselves in when they began their own experimentation that became Aerodyn.

It was a heady time and Dierk Jensen’s coffee-table book is replete with hundreds of photos of rare wind turbines from the period. Wind aficionados and historians of the technology will find photos of odd designs that at least I’ve never seen before—and I’ve seen a lot of wind turbines.

The text is in German, English, and Chinese. The latter reflecting the number of wind turbines that Aerodyn designed for Chinese companies.

Oddly, for a German design firm, Aerodyn had a love affair with two-blade turbines. Long after everyone else had gone to three blades, Aerodyn was still turning out designs for two-blade turbines.

Jensen’s retrospective covers the thirty years from 1983 through 2013.

Jensen, Dierk. Den Wind der Welt einfangen (Catching the Wind of the World): 30 Jahre aerodyn. Rendsburg: Aerodyn Energiesysteme GmbH. 2014. 220 pages. ISBN 978-3-00-044322-0. 34 cm (13.25 inches) x 23 cm (9 inches). Cloth.