Karen Conover has been guiding the wind industry for more than 25 years. A long time consultant and industry leader, she is one of the few women visible on the national and international wind stage during the surge in development in recent years.
Karen’s interest in the renewable energy business began at an early age . At an energy fair in NewJersey, United States, her hometown, she was captivated by the solar and wind-energy displays. From that time forward, she pursued an involvement with renewables – first through science projects in grade school, then in a university program. She even wrote college application essays on the benefits of recycling and renewable energy – a relatively unusual topic for the early 1980s!
After receiving her undergraduate degree at in Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, Karen sought out a graduate program that specialized in renewables. She obtained a Masters in Science and Engineering from University of Arizona in Renewable Energy Systems where she focused on solar, wind, and clean power generation.
After graduating, she joined a consulting company in the Pacific Northwest in 1987 and in 1994 started Global Energy Concepts (GEC), a wind-focused consulting company. Most of her firm’s work in the 1990s was in emerging markets, work that took her to Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East. In 1995, she was nominated by a client for a position on the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Board of Directors. She continues to serve on the AWEA Board and currently holds the longest tenure of any board member.
In 2002, AWEA recognized GEC with an award for “building one of the worlds leading wind consultancies.” The company’s success was based on providing a broad range of services from wind resource assessment to turbine development support and due-diligence services. Clients included developers, equipment manufacturers, investors, government agencies, and utilities.
Establishing a good workplace environment consistent with the mission of the company was always a high priority for GEC. The company promoted environmentally friendly practices and encouraged employee commitments to reduce their carbon footprint long before it was fashionable. “Our success is based on the quality, competence, and happiness of our people,” she said, “It’s always possible to have fun and do a good job at the same time. Most people feel that working in the wind industry is meaningful work, so motivating employees to do their best work was never a problem.” Karen clearly walks the walk as well as talks the talk!
Karen joined the Women of Wind Energy (WOWE) Board of Directors in 2005. “We always had a high percentage of women engineers at GEC, said Karen, “As a female CEO, I was please to support the work of WOWE and become a mentor to other women entering the workforce”. WOWE promotes the education, professional development, and advancement of women to achieve a strong diversified workforce and support a robust renewable energy economy. Karen was Women in Wind Energy’s 2009 Woman of the Year. A proud and well-deserved achievement for her.
In June of 2008, GEC was acquired by Det Norse Veritas (DNV), a global risk-management firm with a long history in the wind industry. Following the acquisition, Karen took over the position of Global Wind Energy Segment Director with responsibility for coordinating DNV’s global wind units in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Until recently she was based in DNV’s London office honing her knowledge of offshore wind projects
Karen has overseen wind energy work throughout the U.S. and in over twenty countries and now leads Wind Business and Strategy Development for DNV Global Energy Concepts.
Following her return to the US this year, Karen says that she expects to balance her work in wind between onshore and offshore wind markets as North America and Asia expand their offshore activities. “Let’s hope that the US is able to enact a long term energy policy that propels the US back to a wind-energy leader,” she says.
DNV has considerable expertise in wind energy and is the world’s leading provider of offshore project certification services. DNV’s current wind centre in Denmark has more than 20 years of wind experience, and more than 40 years of experience within oil, gas and energy, with a corporate global footprint of 300 offices in 100 countries.
by Colin Houghton