Standing tall in the North Sea, a shoal of wind turbines overlooks the coast of Denmark. Secured to the ocean floor by a specialist hydraulic ram, each construction can reach heights similar to that of the Eiffel Tower or the Chrysler Building.
Offshore wind turbines generate an enormous amount of electrical energy. And the taller they are, the more power they generate as wind generally moves faster at higher altitudes. But the physical presence of the wind farm will always be overshadowed by what they stand for — the ability to turn wind into energy.
Underneath the series of grand pillars lies a whole host of transmission technology. Numerous cables, transformers, and switchgears help turbines efficiently power our homes, and it’s electrical engineer Bjørn’s job to oversee these aspects of generating energy. “I don’t make the wind turbines themselves,” he explains. “I work on getting power from the offshore wind turbines to the grid by maintaining the offshore platforms that house these connections.”
Containing high-voltage switchgears these substations handle the distribution of electrical power, transforming the energy before funneling it to the shore along the main cable. “The switchgears are where all the cables from a fleet of windmills come in, and all the voltages are connected before being funneled to the shore along the main cable,” he explains.
As a strong power engineer, Bjørn only works on projects involving high-voltage electricity and an overall project manager helps him keep his head in the technical realm. “No two days are the same,” he says. “That’s what I love about my job, it’s all problem-solving.”
The evolution of the energy sector
When Bjørn began working at Siemens more than 20 years ago, he couldn’t foresee the variety of roles he’d end up in. As engineering in the energy sector changes and grows, the organization has always ensured that his career has evolved alongside it.
Before the uptake in renewable energies, Bjørn worked in the oil and gas sector. Based in Norway and Germany, and traveling to Dubai, South Korea, and China, he’s witnessed first hand how the industry has changed across various markets. And, just like in his current job, Bjørn focused on the electrical aspect, by helping to reuse current equipment in modern production methods. “We had to transform old oil tankers into a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) unit, using new technology to help us update the old equipment,” he says.
His advice to anyone starting out in the electrical engineering field is to embrace every opportunity with open arms: “You have to be open-minded and open to change. The energy business is constantly changing and so is the electrical infrastructure that supports it. Look at electric cars, they’ll rely on a network of charging stations.”
Denmark has paved the way for wind power. Home to the world’s first offshore wind farm in 1991, the country expects to generate 60% of its energy through wind power alone by 2020. Their advancements have prompted countries across the globe to follow suit, meaning Bjørn’s next opportunity could be anywhere. “You never know where the next offshore wind farms will be,” Bjørn says. “Right now, it looks like Taiwan and the US might be next.”
It’s a testament to how the industry has adapted and grown with demand. A decade ago, Bjørn was helping to revamp the oil industry. Now, his experience has the potential to take him to greener pastures.
Bjørn Clausen is an Engineer & Technical Project Manager based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Find out more about working at Siemens.