Early in 2010, a sustainability innovator from one of Poland’s top-rated business schools signed up for a wind turbine blade inspection course to learn more about the behind-the-scenes activities of one of the fastest-growing industries in renewable energy. At the time, Denmark was one of the few places on Earth that offered this type of training, so it came as no surprise that both the course and its field work were located in a relatively uninhabited part of that country.
What was surprising, however, was that the course consisted of overworked ex-military personnel who had not been home in weeks. “I’m thinking of leaving the wind industry so I can get some rest,” one of them said. Another three individuals, all of whom needed to renew an important certification, never showed up at all because they had to attend to a malfunctioning turbine near the Mediterranean Sea.
“That’s when I realized that the number of trained individuals who can perform mechanical labour on wind turbines was not adequate to meet demand,” says Jonathan Scott, the teacher who made the journey (Scott is also a business developer, an entrepreneur, and an amateur rock climber; he made the trip, in part, to investigate job opportunities for climbers with rope access safety qualifications).
In fact, every field worker Scott spoke with agreed that a lack of skilled labour was a major headache in the industry and that the situation was destined to become worse as turbines continued to be manufactured, and as the existing ones became older and required more maintenance.
Scott immediately began formulating a software tool that would help field workers conduct blade inspections and write professional reports accompanied by pictures and videos. The idea was to allow workers to complete their inspection reports on-site as inspections were conducted, thereby saving approximately 2-3 hours of post-work later. With a telecommunications link, the software could also allow information to be sent to individuals in other parts of the world for an on-the-spot analysis by experienced personnel.
As a business manager who understands the importance of recruitment and training, Scott envisioned that the software might also provide a ‘gateway’ into the wind industry for women, entrepreneurs, engineers, more ex-service people, and other suitable candidates — all of whom have the capacity to perform basic inspection work, but currently lack the qualifications and experience to conduct repairs.
Work on the software began in March 2011, and although the first prototype was designed for turbine blade inspections, it quickly became apparent that a similar software package could be developed for the inspection of towers, nacelles, and equipment such as gearboxes and generators. A version in Android was developed so the software could be installed in tablets and smart phones, due to the rising popularity of these devices (when the idea for project began, Apple’s iPad had just been introduced).
While the software project developed, additional feedback from workers made it clear the wind industry had other voids (read: opportunities) that needed to be filled, so Scott and his team began designing an even grander project; one that would help workers help themselves to overcome the difficulties of a growing industry in which the infrastructure has not yet fully developed.
Called Wind Gateway, the resulting project, in the form of an easy-to-use website, focuses on providing free educational material, dedicated search engines, information exchanges, job search and job improvement tools, skill development, best practice posts, and other self-help and career-enhancing offers.
Being university-based, Scott developed the project so that it is easy to analyze and develop the results, in order to keep up with changes and further advances the wind industry and its people. Factors that prove to be the most promising in terms of worker support and productivity, job creation, job security, value and profitability are then studied to determine if they can be adapted to help other industries.
Both projects are so intriguing that, in October of 2011, Wietold Bielecki (Rector of Kozminski University, Poland’s top-rated business school) and Andrzej Kozminski (founder and President of Kozminski University) awarded the first MBA scholarships in the history of the university to the two individuals who worked hardest to develop the software and put together the basics of Wind Gateway (Bartlomiej Wachowski and Slawomir Sierocki).
Today, both projects are almost finished, but the volunteers involved have done as much as they can (to date, 20 people from 9 different countries have worked on these projects). Specialists are now needed to put the finishing touches on the almost-completed results – which, when finished, will be disseminated free of charge to the men and women who work in the wind industry.
Interested in helping?
Read about the fascinating Wind Gateway Projects at IndieGoGo and chip in to make it all happen!