Visionaries in wind energy

sowento GmbH emerged from a spin-off of the University of Stuttgart. Today, the international and multidisciplinary team is working, among other topics, in lidar control for wind turbines and floating offshore wind turbines.

The founders of sowento are committed to advanced control solutions and the latest simulation techniques for designing the sustainable energy systems of tomorrow. The origin of the company, which is headquartered in Stuttgart with offices in Flensburg and Delft, is the University Chair for Wind Energy (SWE) at the University of Stuttgart.

Dr. Frank Lemmer (left) and Prof. David Schlipf at the award ceremony for Frank Lemmer's dissertation at the 2019 Wind Energy Science Conference in Cork, Ireland.

Important assistance from TTI

The current managing director, Dr. Steffen Raach, recalls, "In our research group, the idea of spinning off a company had been around for a long time. We five founders worked together, got along well and finally decided: We're doing this now." While some colleagues moved to the north, where there are more job opportunities for wind energy experts, Steffen Raach, David Schlipf, Florian Haizmann, Holger Fürst and Frank Lemmer stayed in the south. The startup enthusiasts visited the Technologie-Transfer-Initiative GmbH of the University of Stuttgart (TTI), one of the central contact points for people interested in starting a business at the university. There, they received information and assistance on all important points for their further path.

In addition to TTI, the Exi+ project, which is based at the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research, is now an internal contact point for start-ups at the university. Both institutions work hand in hand.

Company founders initially continued their research at the institute in parallel

"As a spin-off of the institute, we signed an agreement with TTI, and then we were ready to go," Raach recounts. At the same time, the company founders continued to research and work at the institute. However, they all thoroughly enjoyed the extra work, he emphasizes, and continues, "From the very beginning, we financed everything ourselves, and we were able to start from a fairly secure position thanks to our industry contacts." No doubt, since what sowento has to offer primarily concerns new technologies that are not available in this form by other engineering consultants.

Future offshore wind power generation: Networked and smart wind turbines on floating platforms produce electricity as an optimized overall system.

Licensed property rights
Part of sowento's portfolio is based on the methods and technologies developed at the University Chair for Wind Energy (SWE), which have been licensed to the company. The cooperation for this is carried out with the Division 1 - Research and Transfer.  

Link between research and industry

The portfolio of sowento's multidisciplinary team includes wind energy technologies - for onshore and offshore turbines as well as for offshore floating platforms or wind farms - feasibility studies, simulations, software solutions, system design and analysis, control engineering and data evaluation. "We see ourselves as a link between research and industry," explains Steffen Raach, referring to one of the company's major successes: "For the Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Goldwind, we were able to provide the methods for the first commercial wind turbine with lidar control." Lidar technology, a laser-optical remote sensing method, makes it possible to determine wind speeds at a distance in front of the wind turbine.

All control parameters of the wind turbine can thus be adjusted to the wind field before it reaches the wind turbine. As a result, wind-induced loads can be reduced, wind turbines can be built with less material and their energy yield can be increased. The same technology is also very useful for floating offshore turbines. The novel floating wind turbines are sowento's second expertise. For them, the independent engineers offer e.g., advanced simulation studies and controllers.

We dream of a just world in which renewable energies are strong and a sustainable energy supply is available to everybody.

sowento’s vision

David Schlipf and Frank Lemmer have received several awards for their PhD theses. David Schlipf, who now holds a professorship at Flensburg University of Applied Sciences, works at sowento in the area of "Lidar technology for wind turbines", Frank Lemmer heads the area of "Floating wind turbines".

Together with the founding of sowento GmbH, the company moved into its own offices in 2018. "But that was just the start; in the meantime, we have colleagues working in a wide variety of locations," says Steffen Raach, emphasizing the effective collaboration of the international team, which is made up of eight engineers and also students. At sowento, the pandemic was noticed early - long before the virus arrived in Europe, Asian partners had to go into lockdown. Despite the adverse circumstances and the resulting challenges, Steffen Raach can certainly report successes this year. For example, sowento was able to win an important Carbon Trust JIP project on modeling and standards for floating offshore wind turbines.

No regrets about entrepreneurship

"I have not regretted the step into starting our own business," says Steffen Raach. Being able to shape things myself, take responsibility, be flexible - that's worth a lot. And then there is the wind energy community with its open and friendly cooperation, which is also lived at sowento. The contact with customers is characterized by trust, and their problems are approached in a solution-oriented and transparent manner. As goals for the future, Steffen Raach explains that they want to advance the topics of sustainability and renewable energies through innovations.

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