Strong winds

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Ila Charles
Director of Business Development, Renewable Energy & Power Projects

Wood is driving the future of wind through project delivery innovations according to Ila Charles, Wood’s business development manager who has spent the last 13 years driving solutions for clients across the energy landscape. A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Ila began her career at Wood as a cost and performance analyst, progressing to lead the Trinidad & Tobago strategy and development team, primarily focused on the oil, gas and LNG sectors.

Relocating to Georgia in 2019, Ila now has her eyes set firmly on growing Wood’s renewables business across the U.S., which is set to double in size this year.

To celebrate American Wind Week, Ila provides her assessment of the market and how Wood is positioned to power the future of energy through wind.

Against the tumultuous backdrop of 2020, what is your view of the U.S. wind market currently and how has it changed in the last year?

Despite a challenging year, activity remains high. In 2019, we saw significant uptick in the market led by utility and power producers looking to complete projects by 2020 in order to qualify for tax incentives – which thanks to an extension continues to bring relief to the market.  We also witnessed increased commodity prices and longer lead times on major equipment required to deliver engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) scopes.

If you look at market forecasts, the growth curve for additional capacity based on new wind projects will hit a peak in the next year and taper off by the end of 2021.  I would expect that with the current pandemic, that spike will probably flatten out across a longer duration. That said, we have seen no drop in demand for our advisory and EPC solutions, with our clients already engaging with us on projects as far out as 2023.

Wind farm

What do you see as the future of the U.S. wind market and how is Wood positioned to be part of building that future?

I think the combination of new technology and reduced costs created a paradigm shift in the U.S. wind market which I see playing out in three key areas: offshore wind, repower and digitization.

The potential power generation from offshore wind is excitingly exponential. Combining our global wind expertise, where we’ve delivered over 800 wind projects alone, including playing a key role in the largest offshore wind farm,  and with our extensive offshore upstream track record, we’re positioned to be a leader in this growing market.

The pace of change in technologies is a compelling prospect, and I’m excited that we’re starting to apply these advancements to repower activity.  Over one tenth of operational wind facilities in the U.S. are more than a decade old and with new technology, such as larger, more efficient wind turbines, we can revitalize and optimize those existing facilities. We are already focusing on a number of projects that involve repowering wind sites.

Wood is also driving and shaping the future of the wind market by its focus on digitization.  Through digital twins, our clients have the opportunity to optimize the design of new wind facilities in addition to maximizing the performance of wind facilities across each stage of the asset lifecycle.

Concrete pour

What’s your purpose? Why do you come to work every day?

Well these days ‘coming to work’ takes me all of 15 steps from my bedroom to my living room, but throughout this complex period in our lives, I continue to show up because of the people I work with, whose passion, focus and drive are creating new solutions to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.  Whether it be at a desk or at a site, everyday our teams all over the world keep the lights on, the world running and, ultimately, make people’s lives better.

I feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey at Wood; to play a real part in meeting the goals of an ever-accelerating energy transition. I personally hope to continue to generate opportunities to partner with our clients to deliver the groundbreaking solutions they need to achieve their sustainability goals, and I hope to continue to learn from my brilliant and inspiring colleagues across our business.

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