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Members' interviews

Interview with Dr. Martin Knops, CTO at ZF Wind Power Antwerpen NV

Dr. Martin Knops, CTO at ZF Wind Power Antwerpen NV

Can you tell our readers a little about your organisation?

The company was formed through the successful integration of the wind activities of the industrial technology division of the ZF Group, one of the world’s leading automotive industry suppliers, and the former Hansen Transmissions, a major player in wind turbine gearboxes.

In December 2015, the company demonstrated its long term commitment to wind energy through the acquisition of Bosch Rexroth’s wind gearbox business.

Through building on its experience, expertise, efficient production and innovation, ZF Wind Power is helping all key wind turbine manufacturers in Europe to achieve cost-efficient electricity production.

ZF has two locations in Europe with the plant in Lommel, Belgium, being the HQ and main location for serial production for the region and the plant in Witten operating as a dedicated service centre for Europe.

What are the most exciting developments you have seen in the wind industry?

The vast evolution of wind technology that was needed to form a sound basis for wind energy to become mainstream.

Recent developments have resulted in the introduction of new giants on- and offshore to benefit from the scale of economy. Wind power is now on the verge of gaining further momentum, benefitting from industrial scale and preparing the market for new innovation and pushing designs to limits that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago. In the past 40 years wind turbines have evolved from a 30 kW output to serial installations of +8 MW offshore turbines.

ZF was pioneering wind gearboxes in 1979 and continues to lead with serial production of transmission solutions for the largest offshore turbines.

What changes would you like to see in the wind industry?

Europe should be more serious about wind energy. If you look at the global market, more than 40% of the world’s wind capacity is produced in China, and as a result China is positioning itself as the biggest export hub for wind turbines.

At ZF Wind Power, we are trying to maintain a strong European base not only for design but also for production and servicing of wind turbines. ZF is well placed to be the leading European wind turbine gearbox supplier, but we have a clear international perspective as well.

Europe has a sound foundation and has advantages in both on- and offshore wind technology today which could make it a leader in next generation competitive wind technology.

Going forward, what role do you see your organisation playing in the future development of wind energy?

As part of our innovation programmes, ZF will focus on modular and integrated platform designs, increased torque density and advanced bearing technology to help our customers win the race to grid parity.

ZF’s knowledge in modern sensor technology and digitalization can increase the efficiency and reliability of wind turbines. ZF expects a significant cost reduction potential within the wind industry, and we look forward to developing this growth path.

How has WindEurope membership benefited your organisation?

Through WindEurope membership, we expect to have increased visibility and access to the main stakeholders in the wind industry in Europe.

ZF already invested this year (2017) by being present at the Amsterdam wind show to demonstrate our capability and vision on future products both in on- and offshore markets.

If we look ten years ahead, what do you hope to have achieved?

Wind technology is entering a new era of innovations to remain competitive. A new sustainable balance needs to be found during the transition from the FIT systems towards auction/tender systems. This will create a formidable challenge but at the same time creates a ‘point of no return’ for wind to lead the energy transition.

The search for further cost reduction will lead to exciting new turbine architecture for onshore and large scale deployments offshore, combining the best of mechanical and digital designs. ZF’s vision on new modular architectures and professional after-market services will help customers to focus on their core business supplying wind energy solutions.

ZF Wind Power puts wind energy in motion. That is our commitment to the future.


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