Member Q&A: Julien Sellier, Structeam
For the latest in our series of member Q&As, Frances Salter spoke to Julien Sellier of Structeam Ltd. If you'd like to take part in a member Q&A, email us at email@example.com.
Julien has been involved with designing and manufacturing wind turbine blades since 2004. In 2010, STRUCTeam was founded to support the wind industry through reducing risk and costs. Julien is the Managing Director of STRUCTeam and consults for key clients with respect to their long term blade strategy, in terms of technology and supply both for onshore and offshore wind.
In the simplest terms, what does your company do?
We are consultants in blade technology, as well as being contractors. This means we are specialists in advanced materials such as fibre re-enforced plastics and the technology used to make blades cost-effectively. We work in Europe, India and China.
Of the deals you’ve worked on, which is your favourite and why?
I have many favourites: one would be when we got our first blade design in 2011, which was certified through DNV-GL. The main achievement was to convince this first customer that we would deliver with our newly formed company, and we delivered; that’s why it was is so symbolic for the company.
In which markets do you see the biggest opportunities right now?
Probably China has the lion’s share, but Europe and America are also significant.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the wind industry, and how would you solve it?
I think it’s operations and maintenance because the investment phase is now well understood. The little operations and maintenance problems become bigger as the industry grows. We have to remember that 10 years ago, 2MW turbines were the largest platform available: now it is in the region of 6-8MW. This scalability comes with consequences and has an impact on the supply chain, which needs to become more proficient and organised. With the work we do, we are basically de-risking the future activities of our customers.
Which trends do you think will affect the wind sector the most in the next 5-10 years?
I think the Chinese will surprise Europeans at some point with projects which are very low-cost and with strong financing options. This will be good for the industry and will reduce costs overall. In terms of technology, it will become more economical and automation is key in this direction.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned during your career?
I started my business eight years ago, and what I’ve learned in that time is that you’ve got to understand a customer’s needs to give them the product they want. It’s about listening to the end-user, rather than pursuing technology for its own sake.
Do you have a mentor, and if so, what did they teach you?
I do have a number of mentors; the fact that we’re involved in Europe, Asia and the US means that I’ve needed a range of mentors in different cultures to help get me where I am today. It’s helped me understand different traditions whilst keeping a constant line and strategy with the company. The problems being faced are essentially similar, but experienced differently and resolved differently.
I am also very lucky to have a very competent board of directors to support the direction that the company is pursuing.
Why did you join A Word About Wind?
I wanted to understand more about how the industry was being processed, so that we could see how to best introduce new technology to the market. We wanted to know about financial networks we could access to create better products: it’s about trying to build a network around those questions with the focus to deliver better solutions to the industry both economically and from a technology or performance stand point.