Wind energy, like many other parts energy industry worldwide, continues domination by males. Still, opportunities exist for improving gender balance, larger use of women skills, and, entrench wind power as part of an inclusive and sustainable energy system for the future.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) conducted the survey jointly with the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET).
The survey sought evaluating the importance of barriers to recruitment in wind industry.
Because norms and roles are similar in origin, they, in fact, reinforce each other. Many respondents also highlighted the lack of gender targets and the prevalence of certain hiring practices as important. Both may give a sight as an expression of male-biased norms. And thus, to some extent a variation of the top two barriers. Other barriers has shown less correlation, especially educational backgrounds and self-perceptions of women. Results reveal that participants are confident that women in the field have proper preparation for entrance into sector.
Gender pay imbalance in same works are difficult to asses for some reasons, but the perception of a persistent gap remains strong. The literature and other surveys show that in the wider economy, pay gaps widen as women move up the career ladder, and therefore the biggest inequities exist for executive positions.
Pay discrepancies between men and women can weaken the appeal of an industry. Understandably, they may temper women’s interest in joining an enterprise or other organisation, or their desire to remain for the long run. While IRENA’s survey did not include any pay data, it reveals respondents’ perceptions.
Individual respondents were asked for men’s and women’s equal works and payments. Overall, 40% of all respondents believed that men were paid more for equivalent work. 60% believed that pay was equal or higher for women for the wind sector. The replies indicate that respondents perceive less pay inequality in the wind sector than in the overall economy. 68% of the respondents perceive that men are paid more .
No Difference Based on Region or Activity
Survey responses did not indicate any significant differences by region, or by main activity of an employee’s organisation. Organisation size, however had a significant impact on perceptions of pay equality. These demonstrate employees in larger organisations being less likely to believe that men and women were paid equally. Similarly, there were disparities in correlation with educational background. Individuals with no higher than a high school degree had a significantly lower perception of pay equality than other individuals.
By gender break, 76% of male respondents indicated their perception of the existence of pay equality in the wind sector. This is in comparison with just 45% of female respondents. The perception gap was even greater for pay equality across the economy as a whole.
Among other findings:
- Women represent only 21% of the wind energy workforce (based on survey responses). This is in comparison with to 32% in renewables overall and 22% in traditional energy industries like oil and gas.
- Perceptions of gender roles and cultural-social norms form a major barrier to gender equality.
- Perceived wage inequalities are lower in wind energy (40%) than in the overall economy (68%).
- Perception of women is to possess valuable skills and knowledge.
- Europe and North America show the highest share of women in wind energy jobs, at 26%.
Improving Gender Balance: Practices
On basis of interviews with women and men in the sustainable energy sector, a structural and environmental analysis and a literature review emerges. GWNET identified the following as good practices for greater women participation in better conditions:
- Seeking greater gender equality by promoting girls with a demonstrable aptitude.
- Sustainable energy sector’s promotion as a workplace choice for women and men with families.
- Putting in place quotas for leadership roles to break unconscious biases and highlight women’s leadership.
- Removing biases in recruitment, performance reviews; equal pay and promotions.
- Universalising equitable parental and career leave, childcare for parents, return-to-work programs; flexible work; and mentoring.
- o Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Transformative change is the responsibility of the most senior person in an organisation. And, it requires objectives’ and initiatives’ monitoring. It is a matter of priority to the organisation’s board or leaders. Commitments of time, resources and personnel are essential.
No one, corporation, institution, state, company has found a unique, perfect solution for gender inequality in the industry. Beyond change in a single organisation, for improving gender balance, coalitions of the like-minded can work. It may bring together governments, industry, labor representatives, women association, and international organisations.
Lightweight Construction with Polyurethane Timing Belts
A barely manageable demand for rotor blade repairs is looming on the horizon in the wind power industry. The solution: A mobile service platform of the Brandenburg-based company WP Systems GmbH has doubled the number of possible maintenance assignments per year compared to previous systems. The platform features BRECO® timing belt drives, which play an important part in weight reduction.
We are witnessing a positive trend: With 100 terawatts supplied by onshore wind power plants, this eco-friendly power source was the second most common source in 2018, ahead of even nuclear energy and coal. However, the necessary systems cannot withstand their expected 20 year service life without repairs and service work. It is hard to believe, but the rotor blades made of glass fibre reinforced plastic are particularly affected by erosion, lightning strikes and tears caused by high fluctuating loads. In Germany, the rotor blades are generally inspected every two years by service technicians using cable systems. “However, repair work on a cable has not stood the test of time and proper laminate repair work is just not really possible when you are working from a cable”, explains Ole Renner, one of the two directors of WP Systems, a company specialising in maintenance of rotor blades and dismantling of wind power plants.
He adds: “There is a trend toward mobile service platforms. The state of the art today is represented by open service platforms, i.e. open frame structures which bring to mind mobile scaffolds. Once their frame is stabilised on the tower,they are hoisted up on the rotor using winches. These simple service platforms allow our service technicians to sand the rotor blades, laminate them with polyester resin and seal them with a coating.” But a problem remains: Application of laminates and resins is only possible when there is barely any rain and temperatures are no lower than 12 °C. This makes rotor repairs practically impossible in winter and leaves only a few hours a day in the transition periods. It is also impossible to perform repair work in wind speeds of over 12 m/s.
Ole Renner explains: “So far, these three factors have limited the possible service days to an average of only 60 to, at most, 100 days per location. That is the result of our statistical analysis of weather data for several wind parks. For the industry, this seasonal business with 30,000 plants in Germany alone is a huge challenge.”
Concept for the system terra 1.1
Holger Müller, an expert with years of experience in the field of wind power and director of WP Systems explains the idea of the mobile service platform terra 1.1 like this:
“Our approach was to develop a complete system, which would allow year-round rotor blade repairs. That requires not just one but several innovations:
• To provide a dry environment, the service platform must form a water-tight enclosure around the repair area. Moreover, the mechanism must be adaptable to various contours and cross-sections.
• A solution for applying resins at low temperatures must be found.
• The service platform must be transportable with conventional tandem axle trailers. This means that the weight of the trailer and platform is limited to 3.5 tonnes.”
With this complicated goal in mind, an interdisciplinary team of machine engineers and experts in materials and lightweight construction as well as simulation specialists founded WP Systems in 2015.
Structural solution for the service platform terra 1.1
Within only a few years, the new team fulfilled all requirements with the terra 1.1 system, including the extremely stringent ones for a certification that includes work at night. The new service platform terra 1.1 is really a mobile workshop. It consists of a lightweight aluminium structure, which can be turned into a wind-proof work chamber using tarpaulins and doors and is equipped with everything that is necessary such as power, light, tools and repair materials. To close the gap between the rotor blade and the floor or ceiling in a flexible manner, adjustable covers were developed in Ruhland, which are adapted to the aerodynamic contours of the rotor blades. They can be positioned at a distance of only a few centimetres from any rotor blade.
A rubber sheet with suction cups seals the remaining gap between the covers and the rotor blades to make it water-tight. This makes it possible to perform repairs even when it is raining. To allow resin to be applied on days with temperatures below 12 °C, the developers at WP Systems use infra-red radiators to heat up the repair area. Within only a few minutes, this method creates temperatures of over 30 °C, even in low ambient temperatures. Moreover,the polyester resin and hardener are stored in a heated transport box to ensure that the temperature chain is never interrupted. With this type of preparation, repair work of any duration is now possible at temperatures as low as 0°C and even, for brief periods, at temperatures as low as -10 °C.
Timing belt drives for supporting and rotating the work chamber
Moving the chamber along the rotor blade mainly requires three different movements: Height adjustment using cable winches, the movement and support on the tower using the support structure and the rotation of the chamber around its vertical axis, so that it can follow the contours of the rotor blade as closely as possible. The chamber is suspended by rollers from two C-arch sections to permit rotation. The arch sections themselves are screwed to an aluminium hollow section frame. The hollow sections on its long side are guided on a 15.5 metre long support frame.
The greatest challenge: Weight reduction
It was a special development challenge to keep the weight lower than the permissible total weight of the tandem axis trailer of 3.5 tonnes. Ole Renner describes the conflicts of objectives: “Even though we made consistent use of the opportunities offered by lightweight construction from the very beginning, we had to come up withsomething new for the drive of the hollow section frame on the 15 m telescopic frame, so that we could maintain the target weight. Rack and pinion drives made of steel are simply too heavy. A systematic comparison of drive types soon showed us the potential of lightweight timing belt drives.
André Schmidt, sales engineer at the Leipzig location of the Mulco partner Wilhelm Herm. Müller GmbH & Co. KG (WHM) describes the start of the project: “WP Systems‘ plan was simple yet ingenious: The timing belt is fastened to the end of the support frame and an omega timing belt drive on the bearing frame moves the work chamber to the desired position. However, our first designs were followed by a rude awakening. The calculated tensile force was so high that it clearly exceeded the permissible forces for the support frame-particularly at the top position of the service platform near the rotor shaft-creating a risk of buckling. Higher dimensions for the steel sections were out of the question for weight reasons. We then suggested to WP Systems that the two belt deflection mechanisms of the omega drive should be positioned so closely to the belt pulleys that they would create a positive guide for the timing belt around the pulley. This makes the high tensile force unnecessary for this application.” Ole Renner says: “This modification was very important for us and extremely helpful. We were able to maintain the dimensions of the support frame and finally achieve our target weight.”
Stable and weather-proof: BRECOprotect ®
André Schmidt explains how the most suitable timing belt was selected: “Standard timing belts have coiling noses at the tooth root surface. The steel tension members are unprotected in this area and if the environment is humid, corrosion may occur. BRECO offers stainless steel tension members, but they are not as firm as steel tension members. This means that the stainless steel version would have made the drive wider and heavier. For this application, the open-length BRECOprotect belt with fully protected steel tension member was the ideal solution, because, among other reasons, the polyurethane of this belt is particularly resistant to humid environments.” (A detailed description of the BRECOprotect can be found in the current edition of mulco innovativ on page 2 and 3.)
WP Systems used the same drive method for rotating the enclosure. In this case, the timing belt is clamped to the inside of the curved C-section and fastened to its ends, with another omega drive between them. André Schmidt explains the added potential of this drive solution: “As this example clearly shows, an omega timing belt drive on a segment of a circle is ideal for implementing rotary, tower and pivot drives for practically any diameter. The drive requires no lubrication and is corrosion-proof.”
Ole Renner sums up the past three years of collaboration with the Mulco partner WHM and their practical experience to date: “We are very satisfied with the drive, in particular with the extremely high tensile forces that BRECO timing belts can transmit despite their low weight. That’s impressive. Mr. Schmidt and BRECO Antriebstechnik also responded to our many detailed questions during the development phase unexpectedly fast and found answers to all of them. We can now offer the wind power industry a mobile system solution for rotor blade repairs, which can be used on an average of 200 days. That makes it possible to double the repair work performed while maintaining the same personnel cost, thereby easily doubling turnover. BRECO timing belts contributed to this success.“
IEA and OPEC debated the current situation in global oil markets
Leaders expressed deep concerns about the grave global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its related impacts on the stability of economies and markets, notably in developing countries.
The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Dr Fatih Birol, and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, spoke by phone to review the current situation in global oil markets.
The two leaders expressed deep concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), which is already a grave and unprecedented global health crisis with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences. Dr Birol and SG Barkindo assessed the impact of the virus and the recent broad-based financial and oil market volatility on the global economy. In particular, they discussed the inherent risks of the fast-evolving dynamics, including the most recent developments in global oil markets. They agreed that these create material impacts, particularly for citizens of developing countries including those that rely heavily on income from oil and gas production for essential services and that are especially vulnerable to market volatility.
Dr Birol and SG Barkindo reviewed the impact on vulnerable developing countries and noted that if current market conditions continue, their income from oil and gas will fall by 50% to 85% in 2020, reaching the lowest levels in more than two decades, according to recent IEA analysis. This is likely to have major social and economic consequences, notably for public sector spending in vital areas such as healthcare and education.
They both underscored the importance of market stability, as the impacts of extreme volatility are felt by producers, particularly in terms of much needed income, and by both producers and consumers, who are affected by an unstable and unpredictable market.
SG Barkindo and Dr Birol emphasised the importance of finding ways to minimise the impact of the current situation on vulnerable developing countries. They agreed to remain in close contact on the matter and continue their regular consultations on oil market developments.
Early to assess impact of COVID-19 on European wind energy
The European wind industry is the global leader in the wind turbine market, realising projects in more than 80 countries world-wide. As such, our companies rely on both European and global supply chains for raw materials and components. The COVID-19 virus is impeding international trade, creating delays and uncertainties for different industrial sectors. As the number of infections rises, the European wind industry is likely to be impacted.
First analysis suggests that COVID-19 will have moderate effects on international supply chains for wind energy. With the outbreak of COVID-19 still at a relatively early stage in Europe and other countries, it is too soon to judge its impact on production and revenues in the sector. However, the first logistical delays in the supply chain can be observed already.
“A knock-on effect of a slowdown in China’s manufacturing output is already visible in other countries. The wind industry is, of course, not the only industry feeling the pinch from quarantines, travel restrictions and closed factories. Vehicle and vessel manufacturers, solar-PV panel and battery producers are being similarly affected. We will need to take a strategic approach to ensure that disruption is minimised”, comments WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson with regards to the EU Commission’s Industrial Strategy presented earlier this week.
“With COVID-19 we are likely to see delays in the development of new wind farm projects which could cause developers to miss the deployment deadlines in countries’ auction systems and face financial penalties. Governments should be flexible on how they apply their rules. And if ongoing auctions are undersubscribed because developers can’t bid in time, governments should award what they can and auction the non-awarded volumes at a later stage”, says Dickson.
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