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Analysing impact

The fluctuations of the albatross's wings were replicated, and testing began with model wings. This took place in the wind tunnel at the Zernike Campus in Groningen, where Eize is affiliated as an associate professor of experimental marine zoology & biomimicry. His enthusiasm caught the attention of Geert and Elzo, and with their experience and network, the project took off. Both entrepreneurs have a keen interest in technology, specifically the technical advancements within the wind sector. Elzo explains, "Eize's idea is over ten years old, and together with Geert, we analyzed the impact of this technology. It was nerve-wracking to consider whether the sector was ready for such a change, but not trying was not an option. So, we embarked on market research, approached relevant parties, and formulated a plan. Then, testing could begin in the workshop, with the goal of starting a pilot."

Scientific evidence is not yet commercial evidence, which is necessary for market introduction.
– Geert van Ek

Connecting Contradictions

All the focus on engineering and lab testing paid off with a new physical testing location in Zeewolde, Flevoland. There, a wind turbine from Pure Energie was equipped with blades, each containing four wobbling flaps, each two meters long: the Albatrozz flaps. No new blades are necessary, as used blades are repurposed for attaching the flaps. The software was developed on a computer at the University of Groningen, and the modifications take place in the workshop. Geert explains, "The wind turbines themselves have their own software, and our technology partly goes against it because we want to keep producing - even at low wind speeds, while the wind turbine software is not designed for this and actually wants to 'put on the brakes'. We are deeply immersed in this process now, constantly adjusting and optimizing. Scientific evidence is not yet commercial evidence, which is necessary for market introduction. After testing, we have two options: offer the concept to OEMs who purchase a license, or start directly by upgrading existing wind farms with modifications to existing wind turbines." Elzo adds, "Entrepreneurs know; customers don't just come. We select a specific target audience and then engage in transactions for implementation. A pioneering project like this comes with opportunities and chances. We need to seize them."

The man of Albratrozz
The Faces Behind Albatrozz: Prof. Dr. Eize Stamhuis, Elzo de Lange, and Geert van Ek (from left to right). Photo taken by: Douwe de Boer.

Seeing is believing

"Innovation involves trial and error," says Elzo. The testing period in Zeewolde continues until the end of the summer, and all the data will provide evidence that the technology works as promised: "We're not talking about a commercially finalized concept, but we want to test and present our findings on a commercial scale. Every day, we learn something new, and the data help us further understand our technology. By replicating the wings of the albatross, we are now at the beginning of the solution." Geert adds, "We listen closely to the industry and ask the right questions. We can't just try things randomly. We need to show results to spark interest from key players. Under certain conditions and on an agreed scale. While the industry tends towards ever larger wind turbines, our solution is more focused on smart and dynamic turbines. Providing evidence really makes a difference and is a prerequisite for taking the market in this direction."

It's an exciting story that will help us improve the world, which I hope to share with my grandchildren later on.
– Elzo de Lange

Listing takes you further

Listening to end-users has been crucial for the continued development of the technology, says Elzo: "Before spending a single euro, we invested a lot of time in thinking and listening. Through these contacts, we knew what the evidence from the tests should look like. We thought about the scale, shape, certification, the type of wind turbine, and then the engineering began." Geert adds, "Stakeholders such as wind park owners and wind turbine producers were given a sneak preview and were closely involved in the process. We learned to embrace criticism and rely even more on our own strengths." When asked why they do all of this, Elzo responds: "It's an exciting story that will help us improve the world, which I hope to share with my grandchildren later on. Additionally, I work a lot with innovation projects, and my own work only benefits from it."

Header Photo by Douwe de Boer
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