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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 23, Issue 2, 2019

Gonzalo Abad, Aritz Milikua, Igor Baraia-Etxaburu
Pages 174-203
DOI: 10.5840/techne2019823101

Electric Technology in Wind Turbines from a Dialectic Perspective

Wind turbines have been used by many groups of humans for many centuries. Wind turbines have allowed groups of humans to perform many different tasks in the past (grinding grain, pumping water, etc.). However, only a century and a half ago, they began to be used to convert the energy captured from wind into electric energy. Moreover, only approximately twenty-five years ago, we started to introduce on a massive scale the energy generated from wind turbines into the electric networks of most developed countries in the world for regular consumption. According to 2017 statistics, approximately 12 percent of the electric energy consumed in the EU is produced by wind turbines. Despite the fact that wind turbines generally appear quite similar externally—i.e., a three-blade structure, a nacelle, a tower, etc.—if we carefully examine the electric technology used within them, we find quite a wide range of technologies for energy conversion, which is a key issue in wind turbine technology. Hence, this paper adopts a dialectic perspective towards analyzing and understanding why several electric technologies coexist in wind turbine technology. We explain the specific factors that have influenced different wind turbine manufacturers to adopt different electric technologies across the last twenty-five years. We show how their actions and the technological directions that have followed have been mutually codetermined, resulting in a technological evolution that has produced today’s wind turbine variety.

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