As the co-founder of Eleon, can you tell us what led to the formation of the company and what sets your wind turbine technology apart?

My brother and I founded Eleon in 2001 as wind park developers. Over the years, we gained extensive experience by working with various wind turbine technologies such as Siemens, Enercon, and Vestas. We noticed that despite the scale of the turbines, the technology used was mostly the same, and there was a need for innovation. Eventually, we invented our own direct drive technology in 2007, which is more reliable due to the absence of a gearbox. However, traditional direct drive turbines require a generator to be secured to avoid issues with the air gap caused from off-axial loads from the rotor blades, making the nacelle and tower dimensions larger, and increasing the overall weight and CAPEX.

What were the main challenges you faced as a newcomer in a market dominated by global OEMs?

The wind industry has a long history, and established companies such as Vestas, with over 40 years of experience, have already established their market position. As newcomers, we had to start from scratch and build a strong case to banks and investors to obtain financing, in a world filled with good ideas. Another challenge was getting universities and tech companies to work with us. Fortunately, we were able to form an innovative academic team and have strong industrial partners by our side. Our first installation of turbines in Salme Wind Park in Estonia was meant to kick off regional and global expansion, but we encountered an unexpected obstacle from our own government.

Salme Wind Park has been running successfully since 2013. How do you feel about the results, and what was your experience with the Estonian government?

The first 3 MW wind turbine prototype we installed in Salme in 2013 exceeded our expectations in terms of efficiency and reliability. The average reliability since commissioning is over 99%, which is a record. The prototype produces 12 GWh/year on average, with a capacity factor of over 44%. However, while we were ramping up our references and building the Aidu wind park, the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia, in cooperation with government authorities, changed the legislation to establish a zero tolerance settlement for radars, making it impossible to build wind parks with even a half-millimeter of radar visibility. Despite winning the court case, some authorities continued to fight against our technology, and we realized there was no future for Eleon in Estonia.

Congratulations on your partnership with the Chinese State Shipbuilding Company (CSSC). How did it come about, and what are your plans moving forward?

Given the challenges encountered in the local market and the painstaking reference building process, we decided to look for a strong partner abroad. After exploring several options, we found the perfect match in CSSC, the world’s biggest shipbuilding company with over 300,000 employees. As subsidies are ending at the end of 2020, the Chinese market is poised for changes. Together with CSSC, we aim to compete in the Chinese wind market and become a leader in the wind turbine manufacturing worldwide. CSSC already has thousands of orders in the pipeline, and our efficient direct drive patented technology is precisely what the Chinese market needs.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business, and what is your outlook for the global wind industry?

The pandemic has been a mixed bag for us. While it has been difficult, as we have not been able to meet our new business partners face-to-face, we have been able to continue our business thanks to digital tools. Additionally, new communication opportunities have allowed us to move Eleon’s R&D from Estonia to Germany, taking advantage of the country’s academic wind energy-specific capabilities and scientists.

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