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Setting up research centres in America -- Vestas and Siemens

Keen to tap into the giant pool of engineering talent in North America, two major European wind turbine manufacturers have unveiled plans to extend their existing capabilities by setting up research centres in the US. Vestas will open a facility in Houston, Texas, and the wind division of Siemens Power Generation is doing likewise in Boulder, Colorado.

Vestas' US research hub will employ about 100 high-end researchers by the end of 2010 to immerse themselves in various aspects of wind turbine technology -- including the mechanics, electricity control systems, advanced materials and aerodynamics -- all in the name of increasing wind turbine efficiency and lowering the cost of energy.

Vestas considered locations in more than 35 states before selecting Houston, based largely on it being the epicentre of the energy industry in the US. "Within the Houston metro area, there are more than 3000 energy related companies and many of them are already our customers," said Vestas president and CEO Ditlev Engel, who announced the plan last month in a sideshow under canvas linked to the American wind industry's annual convention, conveniently being held in Houston. Engel added that 48% of the economic employment base in the region is related to energy.

Siemens facility in Boulder is expected to employ an estimated 50 people and will focus on atmospheric science research, aerodynamic blade design, structural dynamics, wind turbine dispatch prediction and turbine reliability. Colorado is home to two research institutions important to wind power that Siemens intends to work in concert with: the federal government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and its wind offshoot, the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC).

Pilot turbine

Siemens has struck a deal with both institutions to install a Siemens 2.3 MW pilot wind turbine with a 101 metre rotor at the NWTC site south of Boulder. The company will test basic wind turbine characteristics and verify new performance-enhancing features and turbine reliability under severe weather conditions over a minimum period of three years.

Siemens cites other potential collaborative efforts in the area with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaborative, a state-funded program including the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines. Siemens already has wind turbine research and development centres in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain.

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