Project Manager Tanja Tränkle leads projects on wind turbines in demanding environments and works in diverse research projects aimed at scaling up wind power and replacing high-emission forms of energy.
– “I feel strongly that what I do has meaning. I’m contributing to solving climate problems,” she says.
As Project Manager in the Maritime Research department at RISE, Tränkle initiates and oversees research projects on wind power. She works close to the market, monitors developments, and addresses the needs and questions that arise. She performs a coordinating role in the research projects, but Tränkle asserts that it is imperative for the whole team to be passionate about the topic and issue.
– “When I put together a team of researchers from various disciplines, I don’t only look at their expertise – I look at their commitment to and interest in the issue. Through contacts or networks, I sometimes find individuals who, like me, are passionate about the issue, while on other occasions I present the issue to individuals and try to get them interested in it. For the project to be successful, it’s incredibly important to find the right individuals,” says Tränkle.
View issues from a new perspective
Tränkle studied economics in her native Germany, majoring in International Business. In 2008, she started working for a wind power developer and took part in the establishment of offshore wind farms in Europe. She joined RISE in January 2015.
– “I want to view the issues from a different perspective. Business is one side of the coin and the research sector is the other,” says Tränkle.
Manager of projects above the tree line
At the moment, Tränkle is working closely with the Testbed Cold Climate project to achieve transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The aim is to establish a testbed for wind turbines in cold climates. The site chosen for the testbed is Uljabuouda wind farm in Arjeplog Municipality, Norrbotten Province, which is owned by the electric utility Skellefteå Kraft. The site has historically documented challenges with regard to cold temperatures and icing. Uljabuouda was one of the first wind farms constructed above the tree line, and it is located on a fell, 760 metres above sea level, with wind speeds averaging around 8 metres per second.
– “We have now chosen the site for the project and we’re awaiting confirmation from the government regarding our application for an updated permit. I’m hopeful and believe that it will be granted. While we wait, we are planning the other infrastructure, ensuring the business case, securing funding, and engaging with potential customers,” says Tränkle.
Potential customers include wind turbine manufacturers looking to utilise new technologies in order to prevent icing on rotor blades so as to minimise production losses. Sensor and transducer manufacturers comprise another potential customer group, and are already able to carry out testing at Uljabuouda. In addition, attempts are being made through research and development to produce surface materials to which ice crystals cannot adhere. Another interesting pursuit involves using drones to ensure that inspection and maintenance can be performed in the cold climate.
Projects for circular material flow
A challenge faced by the wind power industry involves the handling of wind turbine rotor blades when they are removed. The blades are largely made from fiberglass composite. A few of the projects in which Tränkle is involved are trying to determine how a more circular material flow with regard to the rotor blades can be achieved.
– “At present, the rotor blades are scrapped or combusted. It would be optimal to separate and reuse the fiberglass and plastic from the blades. In these projects, I’m mapping material flows and volumes, and I’m offering industry knowledge and contacts, while my colleagues develop chemical processes for recycling,” explains Tränkle.
Large-scale wind power for rapid transition
The entire energy supply system is undergoing transformation, and wind power is one of the most important forms of energy in the fight to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The electrification of industry and transport, for example, in combination with the transition to renewable energy, places demands on larger-scale wind power.
– “We need to phase out high-emission forms of energy and production. We can do so with renewable solar and wind energy. I find great meaning in conducting research into making wind power even more sustainable and competitive. Large-scale onshore and offshore wind power is needed for rapid transition, and I am playing a part in solving climate problems,” says Tränkle.
Vi kommer se lösningar som vi inte riktigt ens kan föreställa oss idag
Wind power – a new dispatchable energy source
The wind power industry is still very young with a high rate of innovation.
– “I believe that – within a decade – wind power will become a dispatchable energy source. We will be even better at utilising the favourable wind resources in Sweden and using the energy domestically, but we will also have the possibility to sell energy to other European markets. Sweden has the potential to help other countries to adjust and reduce emissions considerably now that it has become urgent,” says Tränkle.
Smarter wind power
New technologies and innovations will make wind turbines and entire wind farms smarter and more efficient.
– “I anticipate that we will use smart algorithms and deep learning in all areas, which will enable us to create smarter wind farms that will remain competitive and contribute to more benefits in our electrical grids than just the kilowatt hours produced. The industry is still very young, and we will see solutions that we can’t really imagine today. This is how it’s been since I joined the industry, and I believe it will continue in different ways,” says Tränkle.
Wind power important for northern Sweden
“Wind farms are large establishments and create many jobs, both during construction and operation. Wind power really can be a success story for northern Sweden in terms of utilising the good wind resources on a large scale. On land and at sea, wind power produces favourable conditions for reaching climate targets,” concludes Tränkle.