Last week, two major but very different players in the world of aerodynamics – the American airplane builder Boeing and the giant Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas – announced they would seek ways to work together on various projects.
And while it is still early days, the recently announced partnership is an interesting sign of how industries may combine forces under a carbon-constrained economy.
The first stage of the partnership – announced at an international climate change congress in Copenhagen, Denmark – gets underway this year, when researchers from the companies in Europe and the United States are expected to identify projects already underway within each company that could benefit from closer interaction.
That could lead to joint investments – though there is no talk of a merger, Vestas officials said. “There is a strong correlation between new technologies needed in the aerospace industry and new technologies needed in the wind-energy businesses,” said Jan Narlinge, the president of Boeing Northern Europe.
A particular challenge for Boeing was improving fuel efficiency, Mr. Narlinge explained. For Vestas – a largely undiversified wind company unlike its main competitors Siemens and General Electric – the partnership could help it improve the construction of its towers and increase the power output from its turbines, said Jan Kristiansen, a senior vice president at the company.
Part of meeting that challenge might be learning from Boeing how to reduce the amount of steel in the increasingly vast windmills or even using aerospace materials to improve wind resistance. “We make increasingly long and heavier blades – some measuring 60 meters – and we need expertise to make these strong and efficient,” said Mr. Kristiansen.