Pioneers of Modern Wind Turbines Win 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Decades of Groundbreaking Innovations

engineering careers  Pioneers of Modern Wind Turbines Win 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Decades of Groundbreaking Innovations

The 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) has been awarded to wind energy pioneers Henrik Stiesdal and Andrew Garrad for their decades of groundbreaking innovations in wind turbine technology. The prize honours engineers whose work provides global benefit to humanity.

As early innovators, Stiesdal and Garrad developed new wind turbine designs and analysis tools in the 1970s-1990s that catalyzed the growth of modern wind power.

Their pioneering contributions increased turbine scale and efficiency and enabled wind energy to become a significant renewable electricity source supplying grids globally.

The Danish Concept – Henrik Stiesdal’s Innovations

Stiesdal pioneered the Danish concept turbine design in 1978 – a three-bladed horizontal axis turbine that became the predominant modern wind turbine configuration. His innovative design operates upwind of the tower for improved efficiency.

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Most modern wind turbines utilize Stiesdal’s Danish concept of three-bladed upwind design. Three blades enable excellent rotational stability and peak aerodynamic efficiency at typical operating speeds. Locating the rotor upwind of the tower minimizes turbulence for optimized energy capture.

Stiesdal’s turbine utilizes electrical pitch control – motors turn the blades along their longitudinal axis for speed regulation and shutdown during excessive winds. Pitch-regulated blades yield better performance across varied wind speeds than simpler stall-regulated rotors.

The Danish concept configuration has become a global design paradigm. Most installations, including large multi-megawatt offshore machines, employ three pitch-controlled blades upwind of the tower. Contemporary turbine designs draw upon Stiesdal’s original elegant innovation, which catalyzed the growth of the modern wind power industry.

Andrew Garrad’s Contributions

Garrad pioneered the BLADED wind turbine modelling software that simulates and predicts system behaviours under different conditions. This analytical tool enabled precise design optimization and provided technical confidence for manufacturing ever-larger turbines.

Additionally, Garrad’s consultancy advanced industry practices in areas like turbine testing, project analysis, and due diligence. His wind farm energy assessments facilitated project financing and global market expansion by improving investor confidence.

Impact of Innovations

Due to Stiesdal and Garrad’s contributions, wind turbines have transformed over recent decades – rotor diameters have increased four-fold, and capacity has jumped from less than 1 MW in 1990 to over 10 MW today.

Installed wind capacity rose dramatically from 7.5 GW worldwide in 1997 to over 900 GW in 2022. Wind energy continues rapid growth as a low-cost, sustainable power supply for grids globally.

Upon receiving the Prize, Stiesdal commented: “To me, it represents much more than personal recognition; it is a tribute to the collective efforts of pioneers and engineers in wind power…I am very happy to have had the opportunity to contribute, and I look forward with eagerness to wind power’s future growth, driven by new generations of engineers.”

Similarly, Garrad said, “I am extraordinarily lucky to be part of that transition…Henrik and I see ourselves as representatives of people who made wind energy essential to our zero-carbon future – we have, together, earned this Prize.”

Through decades of innovation, Henrik Stiesdal and Andrew Garrad overcame barriers to enable the remarkable scaling of wind turbine technology from small machines to gigantic offshore turbines powering grids worldwide.


  • Henrik Stiesdal and Andrew Garrad receive 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for engineering innovations in wind turbine technology
  • Stiesdal created the now-standard 3-bladed horizontal axis turbine design and specialized in large offshore turbines
  • Garrad developed widely-used BLADED software to model turbine systems and enable optimized manufacturing
  • Their contributions increased turbine scale and efficiency dramatically from 1990-2022
  • Installed global wind capacity rose over 100x enabling major growth of sustainable wind power