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Henrik Stiesdal

What did I need to learn to do this job?

My favourite subjects at school were physics, history, Danish, geography and biology.

I went to university, but I never graduated. I did about two-thirds of the studies to become a doctor before figuring out that it was not for me. I changed to physics and biology, but never got around to finishing the degree as my work in wind power was taking up all my time.

To build wind power technologies you need a good understanding of physics and a good understanding of people.

Henrik Stiesdal, 63, Denmark

Inventor and Founder and Head of Stiesdal Offshore Technologies

Being good at making new things

I’m an inventor. I create new wind power technologies to fight climate change. I built my first wind turbine in 1976, and in 1978 I designed one of the first modern wind turbines we use today. Back then, this was all very new and we had no idea that wind turbines would become a big source of energy all around the world. What’s happened since is amazing and I am very happy and proud to have been part of this story from the beginning.

When I started building wind turbines it was not because of climate change, but because Denmark wanted to be able to generate its own energy instead of importing it from oil-producing countries in the Middle East. 

Concern about climate change only really began in the late 1980s. I realised very quickly that wind power was an answer to the problem, and from then on I felt that I was part of something much bigger than just a mid-size Danish company.

I believe there are two very important solutions to climate change.

First, we must stop carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels being released into the atmosphere. We can do this by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. 

Secondly, we need to make systems that can extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

While we are already well advanced with clean energy solutions, technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere still need a lot more work.

Wind is an important renewable energy. Windmills have been around for a thousand years or more. The first windmills that were made to produce electricity were invented by James Blyth in Scotland and Poul la Cour in Denmark, around 1890. More advanced versions, looking much like today’s turbines, appeared in 1940 and the really modern wind turbines came to life at the end of the 1970s.

As for me, I became an inventor by chance; I just started fiddling around and discovered that I was good at making new things. I am not an engineer, but I work as if I were. It is great fun! The most interesting part of my job is when I am figuring out new solutions together with my team. In fact, I have written it into my company’s description that we have to make climate solutions, we have to create jobs and we have to have fun!

Being the boss has its good and bad sides. It is good because you can decide the best way to do things and make sure the people working for you are happy in their job. But it is bad in the sense that you have all the responsibility and, if you don’t do your job properly, a lot of people can get hurt.

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