The offshore wind version of an arms race is well underway. The current leader: A joint venture between Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Denmark’s Vestas Offshore Wind announced in January that its latest generation wind turbine had smashed through the 9MW barrier, less than a year after the industry’s first 8MW generators were commercially installed.
Wind turbines rated 10MW and higher are near at hand. Denmark’s Dong Energy said in April that it expects 13MW to 15MW turbines to be operational by 2024, the year the company plans to launch three offshore wind farms in the German North Sea.
“Offshore wind technology is moving faster than even turbine manufacturers believed” five years ago,” said Feng Zhao, a senior director at FTI Consultancy and one of the firm’s experts on wind energy. As recently as 2012, 2MW generators were the industry standard.
Now, three manufacturers – MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, Siemens Wind Power and Gamesa-owned Adwin – all offer 8MW turbines. (Spanish company Gamesa and Siemens merged in April.)
The industry isn’t just moving toward larger and larger turbines for bragging rights, or even because a particular sized offshore wind farm can yield more electricity. As a percentage of total project costs, installing a turbine offshore is far higher than onshore. This means that the more electricity generated by an individual turbine, the less number of total turbines need to be installed. That translates as well into less cable costs, less foundation costs, less costs for delivery vessels, less time for installation, in effect generating power for less money…
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