Nicolas Fichaux, of the European Wind Energy Association and the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind), talks about the challenges facing the renewables energy and his own personal achievements.
PES: Welcome to PES magazine, can you firstly explain a little about your role within the wind industry?
Nicolas Fichaux: I am Head of the Policy Analysis Unit for the European Wind Energy Association, and Secretary General of the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind). EWEA’s Policy Analysis Unit provides technical content to feed into all EWEA activities, from events, communication to policy activities. As such, my team collects market and technology data, analyses the latest market trends, and identifies potential bottlenecks which could hinder the implementation of EWEA’s market forecasts – and develops strategies. For large issues, the content and analysis will come from large European-funded projects, which my team is also managing. These two knowledge-streams help to implement EWEA’s strategy.
As TPWind’s Secretary General, I am mostly in charge of coordinating the development of the European Wind Initiative – the wind’s R&D programme for the next 10 years, which has a budget of €6 bn – and promoting it to the European commission and the Member States. This plan, built from the content provided by the Technology Platform, requires a full consensus from all parties, and a high level of coordination.
PES: How did you first become involved in the industry (what’s your career background)?
NF: As many people currently working in the wind sector, I come from a completely different environment – the Space Industry. I graduated in robotics and satellite images processing – very far from renewables. After a short working period in Alcatel Space Industries, I had the opportunity to perform a PhD on satellite applications for offshore wind energy. In 2003, I joined the French agency for energy and environment (ADEME), where I was in charge of the R&D programmes on wind, small hydro and marine renewables. I joined EWEA in 2007 to set up TPWind, help the platform deliver its strategic research agenda (2008), set up the European Wind Initiative, and launch it – which is expected in May 2010.
PES: Which part of the industry excites you the most?
NF: The constant challenges this industry is facing. In the last 10-years, wind has entered a period of large growth – +23 per cent on average each year. This is a growth rate you encountered in the past in the virtual economy (internet, cell phones), but hardly in the real economy. Every day, our supply chain expands, our technology improves towards higher efficiency levels, our manufacturing processes are adapted targeting even higher reliability levels, hundreds of workers are trained and integrated, massive amounts of green electricity flow through the electricity markets in Europe, and each of these aspects has to be thought in a long-term perspective. That’s quite a challenge.