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Delegates are invited to meet and discuss with the poster presenters during the poster presentation sessions between 10:30-11:30 and 16:00-17:00 on Thursday, 19 November 2015.

Lead Session Chair:
Stephan Barth, ForWind - Center for Wind Energy Research, Germany
Pascal Sommer 8.2 Consulting AG, Germany

(1) 8.2 Consulting AG, Hamburg, Germany

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Presenter's biography

Biographies are supplied directly by presenters at EWEA 2015 and are published here unedited

Dr. Sommer is working in the wind industry since 5 years. He is currently a consultant at 8.2 Consulting AG. He studied french and geography and obtained his PhD (Thesis: Onshore vs. Offshore - Industry evolution between radical and incremental innvation) in economic geography in 2015 at the University of Hamburg. During his PhD he worked at Senvion SE as project manager for test site development for offshore prototypes.


Poster Download poster (7.98 MB)


The wind energy industry - evolution between incremental and radical innovation


The proposed paper contributes to the field of industrial dynamics i.e. technological and thus organizational and spatial evolution and transformation of industries. In this case the wind energy industry.


Classical approaches describe technological evolution using the dichotomy of incremental and radical innovation. Especially radical innovations are said to have a major impact on industries. However, technological discontinuities are not necessarily radical.

Main body of abstract

The wind energy industry during its shift from onshore to offshore is struck by a phenomenon that can be described as architectural innovation “The essence of an AI is the reconfiguration of an established system to link together existing components in a new way. This does not mean that the components themselves are untouched by AI. AI is often triggered by a change in a component - perhaps size […] (and) creates new interactions and linkages with other components in the established product. The important point is that the core design concept behind each component and the associated scientific and engineering knowledge remain the same.” (Henderson and Clark 1990: 12)

Technological discontinuities affect industries whose products are shaped by a dominant design (Anderson and Tushman 1990). The importance of dominant designs in the wind energy industry is shown in several studies (cf. Garud and Karnøe 2003, Menzel and Kammer 2011). A minor change of a dominant design possibly affects the whole industry and thus might have an impact like a radical innovation, without being radical itself. Henderson and Clark (1990) suggest that especially architectural Innovation has such an effect on industries. Changes in the product architecture alter how the different components of a product work together. Thus new capabilities in coordination, organization and communication throughout the whole value chain are required.

While the core components of a wind turbine or a wind farm remain largely the same, upscaling and the new field of application offshore result in reconfigurations on different technological and organizational levels. In an ex post approach some of the failures during the installation of offshore wind farms in the past decade can be identified as classical issues of architectural Innovation.

Up-scaling procedures did often not sufficiently consider the changing design conditions which go along with bigger and heavier components. The marine environment, however, with its fundamentally different conditions and dynamics has a much higher relevance and causes new component interactions due to wave excitation and differing ground conditions. As a result the component design and the final product quality were not always sufficient for operational use offshore and caused problems.

On the WEC-level classical interface problems have been bearing failures (i.e. main bearings, pitch bearings) due to corrosion, heavier loads and different oscillations. On a higher level in the product hierarchy especially the grouting issues between towers, transition pieces and foundations are representative for different interface interactions and the problems they are causing. On the plant level the up-scaling procedures lead to an increased number of installed units. This step leads to an increased total power output and causes an adjustment of cables and transformer units and the respective interfaces. From this angle of view new interactions and linkage patterns emerge again due to a differing park configuration offshore.


Nevertheless it seems that the organizational and co-ordinational capabilities have not yet been aligned throughout the industry as the difference between onshore and offshore is still not recognized by all stakeholders.

Learning objectives
The proposed paper wants to highlight the importance of the concept of architectural innovation for the whole supply and value chain of the wind energy industry. Creating awareness for the practical and theoretical interface dynamics between components and the need for better communication between suppliers and other stakeholders is crucial for minimizing failures, future installation of floating turbines, further cost reduction and a lasting success of the (offshore) wind energy industry.