Introduction: The comparative study by Garudand Karnoe discusses the approach pursued by the Danish and the US wind turbinefirms while developing wind energy technologies and the subsequent success ofthe Danish firms in dominating global market shares. The authors lay stress onthe importance of micro processes and try to establish that the process used byUSA wind power industry can be labelled as ‘Breakthrough’ whereas the approachused by Denmark wind power industry can be identified as ‘Bricolage’. Thispaper analyses the extent of the bricolage and breakthrough processes employedby both the nations. It is evident that various activities undertaken by theinvolved agencies in these two nations cannot be just restricted to definitionsof bricolage or breakthrough processes.
This paper argues that the social andregulation side factors have not been given appropriate weightage according totheir contributions and that for this example of wind turbine technologyevolution in Denmark and the US the entrepreneurial paths chosen cannot becategorized entirely as bricolage or breakthrough, but rather as combinationsof various defined categories. What is Bricolage? The dictionary explainsbricolage as “construction or creation from adiverse range of available things”. The authors however seem to prefer thedefinition by Levi Strauss, “resourcefulness and improvisation onthe part of involved actors” as stated in the comparative study. What is Breakthrough?The authors do no definebreakthrough in the study even when they label it as the entrepreneurialprocess used by the USA. Breakthrough can be defined as “a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery ordevelopment” or as a quantum leap in progress. (oxford dictionarypc1 ) Bricolage versus Breakthrough:Bricolage as explainedpreviously is basically getting the job done with the kind of resources atdisposal.
Labelling the approach of Denmark solely as Bricolage isn’t necessarilytrue or accurate because the development of wind power technology was a processof incremental innovation and took place over time. It involved minor and majorinventions and specialised funding from various actors. Therefore, the processin which bricolage may have taken the forefront it is absolutely vital thatother processes like incremental innovation and co-development be given amention. Breakthrough as a process isbasically making attempts to create something advanced and path breaking tohelp make a quantum leap in in that specific technology or area of work. It issomething which may not happen even after extensive research, but might alsooccur accidentally. Throughout the study by Garud and Karnoe breakthrough,because of US failure, is made to look like an approach which is set up forfailure. However, it can also be said that the US approach had lapses and thatbreakthrough is usually done within organisations or a specific field ofresearch. Trying to achieve a breakthrough in multiple agencies simultaneously isextremely optimistic.
Wind turbines in Denmark:Origin of modern windturbines can be traced back to a design by Johannes Juul back in the 1950s.Many other Danish people, with no technical or research expertise, involved inprofessions like carpentry and mechanic put in efforts and inputs in improvingthe wind turbine. Therefore, there was very little front end cost investment inthe initial designs for the wind turbine technology and they took up theexisting designs from the society. This was a competitive advantage for theDanish firms when compared to the US wind turbine firms since most US windturbine firms did not use this approach. However, Juul’s design wasnot the first designed wind turbine in Denmark. The earliest successfultechnology was developed by the Danish inventor Pour la Courpc2 pc3 , his windmill was developed in 1902 and wasoperational for a long time without much change or ‘bricolage’.
Further development of wind turbines, was driven by owner users in abig way when they formed the Danish Wind Mill Owners’ Association in1978 and by Engineers at the Danish Wind Turbine Test Station (DWTS) which wasestablished in 1978. Therefore there is distribution of agency between differentactors in Denmark.Wind turbines in USA:The earliest design for awind turbine technology in the USA came in the 1890’spc4 , long before Denmark. First major impactful effort tocreate a wind turbine can be attributed back to a design by Jacobs in the endof 1920s, who made small 2–5 MW stand-alone machines equipped with storagebatteries.
These machines were bought by farmerspc5 .Quite opposite to this was Putnam’s 1.5 MW grid-connected wind turbines madecommercial during 1934-45.
USA’s large-scale wind turbine selected and adoptedPutnam’s wind turbine design and developed a program that gained momentumduring the energy crisis of 1973. This design and program was aimed at solvingthe energy crisis and had decent support from various actors. Engineers Gipeand Stoddard were path pioneers in the small-scale industry. They adopted Jacob’sdesign and made some changes to it and various wind power companies adoptedtheir 3-blade wind turbine design. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory NRELwas also established and later on in 1974 American Wind Energy Association AWEAcame in being. Various actors from different backgrounds like users,manufacturers, researchers were involved just like in Denmark. This alsoindicates distributed agency in the USA.
Social Construction of Technology (SCOT):Social construction oftechnology is a constructivist theory that argues that technology does notdetermine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology. It isinspired by sociology of scientific knowledge in the sense in which it argues, thatsuccessful theories/technologies are as much a product of their social contextas unsuccessful ones; they do not only succeed because they are better orconvenient but rather because they are accepted and supported socially.pc6 It is a response to the theory of technologicaldeterminism which suggests that it is technologies and their advent thatdetermine and drive a social structures and cultural values.
This paper suggests that theory of Social construction oftechnology (SCOT) holds good in both the cases of wind power generation byDenmark and USA. In a very generalised view it can be said that the approacheslabelled to both the countries (although should not limited to just bricolage andbreakthrough) are true to their respective societies and cultural values. Wanting to achieve a breakthrough, leapfrog everyone and leadthe way for all other nations to follow is very characteristic of the nationalspirit of the United States. Americans seem to follow the mantra of bigger thebetter and are usually striving to be the best at whatever they may do, make abusiness and be leaders. This capitalistic type frame of mind can be seentaking shape in relation to the case as the national program to end the energycrisis adopted Putnam’s design instead of Jacobs.On the other hand, Denmark is quite the opposite.
Danishpeople are simple and are very community oriented, they believe in makingthings work and strive to be better. Their lifestyle of community and inclusioncan be seen taking shape as they took advice from and involved all relatedagencies in events called ‘Wind meetings’ in their quest for an improved windturbine not only from the research standpoint but also practical implementationand testing.USAversus Denmark:Comparison will be made using2 criteria as follows: · Government support and regulation-TheGovernment of the United states started off on the right foot grantingsubsidies and tax credits to users and producers but in their pursuit to achievea breakthrough they forgot to regulate the growth process. This led to the “windgold rush” in 1980’s which resulted in establishment of huge wind power farminstallations in California. As a response to this the US government cut all subsidiesand tax grants, this discouraged participation of various interested actors.This on-off policy regulation approach did not give the technology the cushionor time it needed to mature successfully.On theother hand, Denmark had stable, supportive and constant regulatory policies.They first triggered a law requiring certification for wind turbines which inturn regulated the subsidy process.
The government then provided a 30% subsidyon the cost of the wind turbine and a favourable feed in tariff. They modulatedthe whole market process which induced confidence and encouraged furtherinvolvement of actors. Consistent and efficient initiatives by the Danish governmenthelped provide the cushion to the technology for it to succeed. · Private sector-Settingup of the AWEA- American Wind Energy Association and other organisations didnot do much for the case of private sector as they were majorly statecontrolled and did not invite much private participation. This deprived them ofthe competitiveness often associated with the private sector. Furthermore, itdid not help facilitate better communication between different actors and this hands-offapproach cost them. Focus on earning quick money and exploitation ofgovernmental subsidies and tax credits led to ignorance on some major aspectsfunctional understanding.
Building bigger wind farms and not building upgradually led them to multiple failures due to lack of basic on groundknowledge and design understanding.Onthe other hand, Danish organisations like Danish Wind Mill Owners Associationpromoted a more coherent work style and exchange of information. Check was kepton excess investment in order to prevent exploitation of subsidies which in thelong term helped maintain a stable market which thrives to this day and helped propelDanish firms to be world leaders in wind power technology. Support to ‘do ityourself’ models for the private sector by the government led them to have agreater insight on the workings and failures of small wind turbines. Thisexpertise was then used to develop large wind farms.