News Details

"Innovation is a top priority for us" "From Hamburg to the World" blog series – interview with Alexander Ohff, Executive Vice President Renewables at TÜV NORD GROUP

Alexander Ohff, Executive Vice President Renewables at TÜV NORD GROUP, Copyright: TÜV NORD GROUP
Drohne inspection at wind tower

EEHH: Hello Mr. Ohff, you have been Head of the Renewable Energy Division at TÜV NORD since 2020. Your career has been heavily influenced by two things: renewable energy and the Asian economy. Please can you tell us more about these?

It’s no coincidence that the Asian economy and renewable energy are the defining elements of my career. Having grown up in the beautiful city of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, I have a natural interest in the Asian economy. While at university, I developed a growing enthusiasm for wind and solar power and have now worked in the renewable energy sector for 15 years. I believe that the transformation of energy production, from conventional to renewable, is a task that will take generations to accomplish and I’m proud to be actively supporting this.

EEHH: TÜV NORD provides testing and certification services for wind turbines. Over the past three decades, major technological progress has been achieved in the wind industry: wind turbines have become bigger and smarter; wind farm production capacity has increased. What do these developments mean for TÜV NORD and which new technology are you using to meet the constantly changing demands on services such as assessment and inspection?

Innovation is a top priority for TÜV NORD; but some things never change: The accuracy of our work and our own quality standards for the services we provide have always been and will continue to be important to us. After all, this is what we stand for at TÜV NORD. However, our product areas and services are constantly evolving. For example, the digitalisation of processes and products is becoming increasingly important, as is the use of software-based calculations, including machine learning and AI. This allows our renewable energy department to enjoy continuous, stable growth.

Remote inspection is a specific example of our product development and is now part of our day-to-day work. This involves TÜV NORD experts from other continents providing virtual, remote support for on-site production monitoring. This concept is evolving into drone inspection: currently, we’re successfully using drones for the end-of-warranty assessment of concrete towers for a major European manufacturer. The next step is the use of AI to evaluate the images captured by the drone in order to draw up a shortlist of images for our experts to evaluate.

EEHH: The expansion of renewable energy, especially wind power, is increasingly considered and implemented in connection with the production of green hydrogen. In your view, what is the role of TÜV NORD in the overlap between wind and hydrogen and can you give us an example of such a project?

We regard the production of hydrogen, especially from large offshore wind projects, as an exciting, pioneering field. So we sit on various technical committees and are involved in the first demo projects.

We’re currently developing a hydrogen certification strategy with a major European energy provider. Our customer plans to operate a prototype wind turbine on which an electrolyser is installed to generate hydrogen. There are several such interesting projects in Europe – but still no suitable certification scheme for these. That’s why we’re working with our customer to develop a hydrogen certification strategy based on the IECRE OD-502 standard.

I believe that our role in generating hydrogen by means of wind projects is to use our technical expertise in both sectors to ensure quality and safety.

EEHH: TÜV NORD has more than 50 offices around the world and operates in over 100 countries. International business is a major element of its strategic direction. Which markets are at the top of your current and/or future agenda and why?

TÜV NORD’s renewables business is dominated by internationalisation and global teams. Asia is one of our focus regions – China, for example, where we’re one of the market leaders for the testing and certification of PV modules. I recently attended the opening of our large new PV laboratory there. In this exciting, dynamic market, we’re constantly expanding our skills and organisation at a local level.

On the African continent, we have a regional hub in Cairo (Egypt), where our team primarily deals with large-scale projects on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa. Our regional hub for Eastern Europe is in Greece and our South America team is based in Brazil.

However, there’s a lot happening in the renewables sector all over the world and even a wide-ranging organisation like TÜV NORD cannot operate in isolation. So we’ve launched a strategic partnership with COWI for major international projects in the owner’s engineering sector, to ensure that our complementary organisations are in a better position to meet complex customer requirements.

EEHH: What does the energy transition mean for you personally and what are your aims for the future?

As I’ve already said, I don’t think the energy transition is a task for the next three years, but a central issue for our current and future generations. The challenge of decarbonising our electricity production will take a few more years to achieve, especially as we’ve now reached the point where smart grids, low-emission back-up power plants and storage systems are becoming increasingly important. And no-one can really envisage the scope and effort required to transform our entire energy landscape, using Power-to-X for example. The relevance of this topic and the technical challenges are both fascinating areas for delving into the content and sustainably designing the future infrastructure.

Due to its extensive social relevance, I believe that this topic will be around for a long time in many respects – and I’m looking forward to being actively involved!

About Jingkai Shi

Profilbild zu: Jingkai Shi

Hamburg is the model region for the energy transition and the Germany’s wind capital with connections all over the world. The local renewable energy sector is thus a key partner for the international energy industry. In my role as a contact person for international cooperation in renewables, I’m responsible for REH’s relations with international industry networks, support REH’s members in their international activities, and help Hamburg gain a stronger visibility and perception on the world stage by using social media.