An interview with Julia Mergner and André Bisevic: Wind energy systems – made in Germany
Within the renewable energy sector a record of 10.3 million people was employed in 2017. Therefore the need for high quality education in the field is growing. Today we want to get an insight into an Online Master program and Certificates that were estab-lished in the field of Wind Energy Systems. Lena Kurtz of Fraunhofer Academy got the chance to interview Julia Mergner from University Kassel und André Bisevic from the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology which are responsible for the programs.
Lena: Julia and André could you please describe the key aspects that participants take home from your study programs?
J: Within our study program, our students become experts in the specialized area of wind energy. They do not only acquire extensive subject-related knowledge in Energy System Technology and Simulation and Structural Technology. They also develop skills in related disciplines, like Business Administration, Law and Management that are highly relevant for developing and organizing wind energy projects in their respective professional position.
L: What makes your programs special?
A: I think its strong orientation towards research but also industry needs and its high flexibility. The study program is the product of a scientific cooperation between the University of Kassel and the Fraunhofer IEE which is a very unique in Germany. Our interdisciplinary team of teachers is very keen to integrate new research findings into their teaching, but also share their working experiences from the wind energy industry sector. The other aspect that makes the program special is the high flexibility. The master’s program is designed as a 100% online distance learning course that uses several information and communication technologies. Thus, our students can study whenever and wherever they want to. Besides the master’s program, we also offer seven Certificates of Advanced Studies that all have a different foci in wind energy systems. So you see it is super flexible.
L: Your participants are mostly international professionals who work at the same time from their home countries. How do you manage to keep the participants motivated and connected with the other students?
J: We support the networking among the students with different tools. One of the most important one is a Moodle student group, where they can exchange information and experiences in the forum, ask questions and help each other. Further, we also organize a project week in Germany, where the students are invited from all over the world once per year to visit us. Here the students have the opportunity to meet their teachers, visit laboratories at the University and Fraunhofer Institutes and also connect with their fellow students. During the week, we also visit different companies in the German wind energy sector and the Global Wind Summit where students can connect with industry representatives from around the world. Our lecturers also give close tutoring and constant insights into their own research or work projects.
L: This means, that participants also have the chance to work on concrete scenarios and examples?
A: Yes, of course, it is very important to us. For example, the module “Construction and Design of the Nacelle-Systems” includes an online laboratory where students can conduct their own remote experiments online in order to get a deeper understanding of general aspects of the turbine dynamic behavior.
L: Probably it’s not easy to transfer the new knowledge into their daily work practice?
J: The experience with our students actually shows exactly the opposite. Usually, our students opt for our study program because they want to further their education in a very specific aspect of wind energy. As an example, I would like to mention the module "Planning and Construction of Wind Energy", in which our students learn how to plan a wind farm using common software. Our students can then put such learning content into practice very quickly. Therefore our students become attractive for the employment market of the wind industry. Even though our Master of Science programme entitles students to a doctorate and is correspondingly scientifically oriented, our teachers pay great attention to the skills required by the wind industry in order to be able to work there.
L: In the last years there has been a growing need to train professionals in renewable energies. How do you predict this need regarding wind energy for the upcoming years?
A: I think we have to take a global view in answering this question. If we do this, it will quickly become apparent that especially in countries such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and some European countries (England, Spain, Germany) the demand for well-trained and specialised specialists in the wind industry is high. Julia and I have just written an article about this in the Fraunhofer IEE Wind Energy Report 2018 (Link). In view of the ambitious targets that some of these countries have set themselves for renewable energies, it can be assumed that this trend will continue for some time to come. It is exciting to note that some emerging countries are only now discovering wind energy for themselves and are making rapid progress here.
L: What has been your most memorable moment in the study programs so far?
A: For me personally it is the small moments and circumstances that I like to remember and that show me that we are on the right track with the study program Online M.Sc. Wind Energy Systems. Personally, I am happy when our students have found their way into the wind industry through our study program. Only last week a student called me and told me that he had found a job at Enertrag and that it was the certificates from the online course that gave him access to the company. I am especially pleased that female and male students from all over the world study our online program. When students from Belgium, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Canada and India come together in a virtual classroom, this makes us proud. That is eventually what we want to achieve with our program. Train specialists for the global wind industry.
L: Thank you very much for the Interview.