Winds of Change: A comparative study of the politics of wind energy innovation in California and Denmark

By Paul Gipe

Winds of Change by Rinie van Est is a masterly work of meticulous research that could well become a classic in its field. It should be required reading for all energy planners, and energy industry leaders alike.

Rinie van Est, both a physicist and political scientist, specializes in the field of innovation and technological diffusion. He works for the Rathenau Institute, the Dutch parliamentary technology assessment organization.

I’ve been long remiss in posting even a brief review of Rinie’s book, his doctoral thesis on how and why small Danish farm implement manufacturers outproduced the giants of the aerospace industry in developing wind turbines. It was Rinie that introduced me to Steven Borish’s book, Land of the Living, as well as Den Internationale Højskøle in Helsingør where he studied Danish.

I relied heavily on Rinie’s work and that of Peter Karnøe in the chapters of my book Wind Energy Comes of Age dealing with the rise of Danish wind turbine manufacturers and the failure of the expensive U.S., German, British, and Swedish wind energy programs.

The success of grassroots or bottom-up technology development and the failure of top-down or centrally directed research and development is all documented between the two covers of Winds of Change.

Winds of Change offers the best scholary history of early wind development in California and Denmark available anywhere. More imporantly Rinie places these developments within their political and cultural context. For example, he explains the backround of the great California wind rush by exploring the history of the “yeoman” farmer in the United States and the rise of the Robber Barons at the end of the nineteenth century. Few other writers, with the exception of Rober Righter in his Wind Energy in America, have attempted such a broad sweep. That Rinie van Est pulls it off in engagingly written English is nothing short of amazing. (I have trouble with English and it’s my native tongue.)

Winds of Change: A comparative study of the politics of wind energy innovation in California and Denmark by Rinie van Est, ISBN 90 5727 027 7, paper, 364 pages, US$29.95, 1999. Available from


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
List of Figures
I Introduction
1.1 Why Wind Energy Innovation?
1.2 The Seemingly Seamless Innovation Web
1.3 Outline of the Book
1.4 Methodological Approach
Part One: The Story of Wind Energy
2 California: Common Sense Wind Energy
2.1 The Arrival of the E-word
2.2 Solar California
2.3 Independent Power
2.4 The Wind Farm Rush
2.5 Entrepreneurial Modernization
3 Denmark: Living Wind Energy
3.1 Breaking the Environmental Silence
3.2 The People’s Democracy
3.3 The Wind Turbine Export
3.4 Home, Sweet Home Market
3.5 Ecological Modernization
Part Two: The Political Game
4.1 Policy Beliefs and Learning
4.2 The Dynamics and Statics of Policy
4.3 The Plan of Part Two
5 Policy Change and Learning
5.1 Policy Change in the Field of Renewable Energy in California
5.2 Policy Change in the Field of Wind Energy in Denmark
5.3 Comparative Conclusions
6 Policy Tradition and Learning
6.1 American Political Traditions
6.2 Danish Political Traditions
6.3 Change in National Political Culture over the Last Three Decades
6.4 Comparative Conclusions
Part Three: The Innovation Game
7 A Theoretical Framework of Innovation, Tradition and Learning
7.1 Innovation Networks and Learning
7.2 The Dynamics and Statics of Innovation
7.3 The Plan of Part Three
8 National Innovation Traditions
8.1 American Innovation Traditions
8.2 Danish Innovation Traditions
8.3 Politically Desired Wind Energy Innovation Networks
9 Unraveling Wind Energy Innovation
9.1 The Federal Halfway Measures
9.2 California: Common Sense Wind Energy Innovation
9.3 Denmark: Living Wind Energy Innovation
9.4 Comparative Conclusions
Part Four: Conclusion
10 The Intelligence of Innovation
10.1 The Intelligence of Politics
10.2 The Politics of Wind Energy Innovation
10.3 The Intelligence of Innovation
II Wind Energy Futuribles
11.1 California’s New Wave of Environmental Passion
11.2 Denmark’s Power of Openness