Alumnus Jerry Randall is a specialist wind engineer with a wealth of experience working on wind farm projects across South and Southeast Asia.
While the design of wind turbines has become highly sophisticated, the identification of wind farm sites is still relatively basic and it was patently obvious to me that more sophisticated approaches were needed.Jerry Randall founder of Wind Pioneers
He has worked in the renewables industry since 2009 and previously worked as a design engineer at Goldwind and a wind development specialist at DNV-GL in India and Thailand, being involved with a significant proportion of sites under development across the region.
He founded Wind Pioneers in 2016 to help provide flexible and cost effective technical support to wind developers across a range of emerging markets. Wind Pioneers have developed a suite of proprietary software to help find and design high potential wind farm sites, providing clients with the most advanced prospecting capabilities available on the market.
Jerry recounts his path from Cambridge to starting his company Wind Pioneers.
My first exposure to the wind industry was a summer internship with a wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight following my first year at Cambridge. I was thrown in the deep end, helping refine the manufacturing process for 40m-long composite blades. It showed me a young, vibrant industry full of serious technical challenges to solve, and the satisfaction of being at the coalface of creating a sustainable future for the planet.
After graduating with an aerospace specialisation, I spent a year in Beijing designing blades for the largest Chinese manufacturer of wind turbines. That year cemented my interest in wind and also taught me that I thoroughly enjoyed living and working overseas. I subsequently joined a renewables consultancy, spending four years split between India and Bangkok undertaking project development work for new wind farm sites across Asia.
One day, standing atop of a proposed wind site in Southeast Asia, it dawned on me that there was a real need for improved engineering approaches for finding great new wind farm sites. The site was beautiful and had everything you would want for a wind project. My experience as a wind engineer was telling me this was a great site, but everything within that experience could easily have been distilled into an analytical process. While the design of wind turbines has become highly sophisticated, the identification of sites is still relatively basic and it was patently obvious to me that more sophisticated approaches were needed.
In addition to observing a technical need for smarter engineering of wind sites, I was also witnessing first hand an entrepreneurial opportunity.
Within the last few years onshore wind has become the outright cheapest form of new energy in the majority of markets. For fast-growing emerging economies wind offers an opportunity to bring cheap energy onto the grid at a pace that can keep up with increasing demands. Wind is entering markets, from Myanmar to Saudi Arabia, it couldn’t have dreamt of just a few years ago.
In brand new markets there is an inherent shortage of local, experienced wind engineers. It was clear that wind developers in these new markets needed more than smarter engineering, they needed access to affordable and flexible engineering that the incumbent European consultancies weren’t able to provide.
So in mid-2016 I moved back to Bangalore to found Wind Pioneers with the aim of addressing both the technical and commercial demands of the industry. We have bootstrapped ourselves and a year and a half after we formed we are now consulting for wind farm developers in a dozen markets across Asia Pacific, helping find and design the next generation of wind farm sites.
Being based in India suits the company perfectly. Beyond giving me year-round sunshine, having low overheads means we can compete in any market globally, no matter how price sensitive. It also allows us to invest much more heavily in research and development. There’s no better city in the world than Bangalore for access to great value engineers. Our team is small but our ambitions are big – we want to develop the most powerful approaches in the industry for finding and designing new wind farms. It’s a very achievable aim as we already lead our competitors in key aspects of the site development process.
I have found an industry that suits me perfectly: it’s a new, dynamic and highly internationalised. The industry is growing rapidly, and growth always brings opportunities. Lastly there is a tangible satisfaction being associated with an industry that is at the battlefront of the crucial fight to create a sustainable world.
The multidisciplinary and rigorous nature of the Cambridge engineering course has without doubt greatly helped me in my career to date. I’ve been thankful of the first year structures course when sat in meetings discussing the design of pile foundations for turbines, and before I started Wind Pioneers I sat down, dusted off the rudimentary C++ I had learnt at CUED and tested some ideas I had about characterising terrain at prospective sites.
Last year, we took two interns from the Department who did some very valuable work for us. We’re very much hoping to make this into a regular setup and look forward to students from the Department helping us with our pioneering wind work as we work towards our goal of creating better-engineered wind farm sites around the globe.