Vestas Wind turbines in Sloterdijk. Photo by Aloxe.
With annual market growth of almost 10 percent, and cumulative
capacity growth of about 19 percent according to the latest figures
from the Global Wind Energy Council, the wind sector continued to
make robust progress in 2012. But while these figures suggest a
relatively buoyant market for installations, perhaps a more accurate
way to judge the health of the wind sector is to consider investment
in R&D, and more specifically the products of that research,
development and testing.
Indeed, alongside the expansion of wind markets - notably in Asia
and the US, with Europe not far behind - wind technology also
continued to show progress over the last year. Key trends appear
to focus on larger offshore machines, new versions of existing
turbines that have been upgraded and modified to suit a wider
range of wind regimes and operating conditions, and a number of
developments that aim to reduce installation and operations and
For example, in January this year A2SEA's new
second generation vessel, Sea Installer, erected two Siemens 6-MW
test turbines at DONG Energy's demonstration site Gunfleet Sands
“The turbines are getting bigger, and the future sites are
further out to sea. This calls for more flexible vessels,” says
Jens Frederik Hansen, CEO at A2SEA A/S. The vessel was launched
from Qidong in China where it had spent two years under
In autumn 2012 Hochtief also revealed a new vessel.
Developed in conjunction with Areva [ARVCF],
Innovation is a new heavy lift jack-up offshore installation
vessel. Operating in depths of up to 65 meters, its cargo capacity
is up to 8000 tons and the onboard crane can lift up to 1500 tons.
Innovation was built by HGO InfraSea Solutions, a joint company of
Hochtief Solutions and GeoSea.
Areva also showcased its new Single Blade Installation system
(SBI) enabling the installation of blades on the hub in all
positions up to 330 degrees and at wind speeds up to 12 m/s. By
avoiding the need to transport assembled rotors, the system saves
deck space and increases the number of machines which can be
transported as a single load, Areva says. They add that the 55-ton
remotely-controlled yoke was first tested in May at its prototype
site in Bremerhaven, with the average time to mount or demount a
blade around three hours.
Onshore, for example, Vestas [VWDRY]
and SNCF Geodis are using the railways to transport blades, with
up to nine 55 meter long blades transportable by train. Although
railway transportation of blades is still in its early phases in
Europe, Vestas says it expects to reduce costs by 10-15 percent
compared to transport by road.
Larger Rotor Diameters, Higher Speeds Explored
Among the major manufacturers announcing new, larger rotor,
versions of existing machines, in February Spanish player Acciona
revealed its new 125 meter diameter rotor for the company's
existing AW300 platform. Designed to give the 3-MW turbine
superior performance at low-wind IEC Class III sites, the AW
125/3000 model stands on Acciona's 120 meter concrete tower and
has a swept area of more than 12,300 m2. Design certification for
the new rotor is due for completion in 2013, with the first blades
installed by the end of the year. The machine will be available
for delivery in 2014 for both 50 and 60 Hz markets, Acciona says.
It launched the 116 meter rotor version for IEC Class II sites in
At the recent EWEA 2013 Annual Event in Vienna, Alstom [AOMFF]
also announced an upgrade of its ECO 100 3 MW platform, currently
designed for medium (Class II-A) wind sites, to medium and high
winds (IEC Class II-A and IS Class). The ECO 122 turbine,
currently suitable for Class III sites, is also being upgraded to
medium and low winds (IEC Class III-A and II B). This upgrade
increases the net capacity factor to up to 48 percent for both
turbines with rotor diameters of 100, 110 and 122 meters, the
Meanwhile, the first wind farm featuring ECO 110 wind turbines
has been inaugurated in Brittany, France, following the signing of
a March 2011 contract between Alstom and Eole Generation GDF SUEZ Group for
installation of 11 machines. These feature a 110 meter diameter
rotor designed for Class II wind regimes and sit on a 145 meter
In a related development, September 2012 saw Alstom sign a deal
for the manufacture of their ECO 122 wind turbines in two wind
complexes, located in the North-East of Brazil with a 600 MW
annual production capacity.
revealed a number of new machines over the past year. In the
low-wind arena the wind power giant sold its first V126-3.0 MW
machines in November 2012, having launched the machine at the
Husum Wind fair in September. Finland's TuuliWatti Oy is expected
to see delivery of the initial batch of units in the fourth
quarter of 2013.
The turbine is the latest variant of the 3 MW platform first
launched in August 2010, has a rotor diameter of 126 meters to
target low wind conditions (Class III) and features a structural
shell blade design. The swept area has been increased by 27
percent compared with the previous model, the V112-3.0 MW, with
its 112 meter rotor diameter. Featuring 55 meter-long blades, it
is suitable for all three wind classes as well as offshore, Vestas
says. Indeed, in June 2012 Vestas released a high-wind version of
the machine. The new IEC S uses a beefed-up gearbox modified to
handle the increased loads.
“The global market for high-wind turbines is diverse. In
traditional and mature wind markets like the European mainland,
there are not that many high-wind sites and opportunities left.
However, in other markets, there are huge untapped high-wind
resources and potential for high-wind specific turbines,” says
Knud Winther Nielsen, senior product manager for Vestas Turbines
R&D and head of the commercial development of the V112-3.0 MW.
Nielsen's words are backed up with another new product, announced
in 2012 by General Electric [GE]
and the latest
version of its trusty 1.5-MW platform. The 1.85-82.5 machine
is destined for high wind sites in Brazil, the company says.
IEC-certified for higher wind speed sites, the new turbine offers
an 8 percent increase in annual energy production at 9 meters per
second over its previous model. GE says its proprietary Advanced
Loads Control allows siting of the 82.5 meter rotor in more
aggressive wind regimes.
New Machines, New Manufacturing
Along with new machines, new manufacturing facilities are also
being developed which will produce the new generation of products.
For example, in January 2013 Alstom launched construction of two
new turbine plants in France. The Saint-Nazaire plants, expected
to be commissioned in 2014, will be entirely devoted to assembling
nacelles and manufacturing generators for the 6 MW Haliade 150
offshore wind turbine featuring a permanent magnet direct drive
generator and a 150 meter rotor diameter. The two industrial
buildings will be next to each other and will cover approximately
2.5 hectares in Montoir-de-Bretagne, within the harbor zone of
Saint-Nazaire. They will be scaled for a production capacity of
100 machines per year and will take over from the temporary
workshop in Saint-Nazaire where Alstom is already producing early
series machines. By 2015, two other plants in Cherbourg intended
for the production of blades and towers are set to be completed.
The blades plant is being developed with LM Wind Power, whose 73.5
meter blades became the first 70+ meter blades to be installed
when Alstom inaugurated the turbine.
Power vice president of sales & marketing, Ian Telford,
states: “Our technology enables us to design and manufacture
relatively lighter glass fibre and polyester blades for the
length, but above all, LM Wind Power has proven ability to handle
the industrialization of these blades, which is not easy.”
Three out of the four offshore wind turbine factories will be
financed through the “investissements d'avenir” (investments for
the future) scheme managed by the French Environment and Energy
Development Agency (ADEME).
also announced new manufacturing capacity this year, having
proceeded to series production in its new concrete tower factory
in Zurndorf in Austria's Burgenland state. At full-scale
production, the plant is expected to produce up to 24 tower
segments a day - a complete tower - for the E-101 3 MW turbine
series. The new factory is set to produce towers for projects
throughout Austria, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Poland, and
southern Germany. This latest plant followed the October 2012
start of operations at a similar, slightly smaller, facility in
the province of Picardy, France.
Elsewhere, for example, China's
is reportedly in advanced discussions with Romanian heavy
machinery plant Faur to jointly invest in a wind turbine
production facility in Romania.
Operating exclusively onshore, Germany's Enercon has announced a
slew of developments with its new machines over the last few
quarters. In mid-October the company erected the prototype of its
new Class IIA 2.3 MW E-92 series atop a 97 meter precast concrete
tower in Simonswolde, Ostfriesland in Northern Germany. With a
rotor diameter of 92 meters, the machine is designed for lower
wind sites and sits between the E-82 2.3 MW and the E-101 3 MW
machines. Compared with the 82 meter machine, the E-92 can achieve
up to 15 percent more yield, Enercon says. Once the power curve
rating has been completed, due as REW went to press,
Enercon says it will start series production.
News of the larger 2.3 MW variant followed close behind the
announcement of another new machine, a 2.5 MW series with a 115
meter rotor diameter, specially designed for inland locations.
Designed for average wind speeds of 7.5 meters per second and gust
intensities of up to 59.5 meters per second, the E-115 is
particularly suitable for less windy locations, Enercon says.
Available with hub heights of 92 to 149 meters the first prototype
is due to be installed this year and serial production is expected
to be launched in 2014.
another wind major operating exclusively onshore, chose the recent
EWEA event in Vienna to unveil its latest turbine. The fourth
generation — Generation Delta — of its 3-MW platform has
larger rotors, increased nominal output and optimized technical
systems, the company says. The new range comprises turbines for
strong and medium wind speeds (IEC Class 1 and 2) and includes the
3 MW N117/3000 for medium wind speeds. This is a 20 percent
increase in nominal output over its predecessor. Designed for
locations characterized by high wind speeds, the N100/3300 is
rated at 3.3 MW, resulting in a more than 30 percent increase in
nominal output. Larger rotors are being used for both platforms
with the N117/3000 adding 17 meters on its predecessor, resulting
in a 37 percent increase in swept area and a 10 percent boost to
full load hours. Meanwhile the N100/3300 has a rotor 10 meter
larger than its predecessor, increasing the swept area by 23
percent, and a taller 100 meter tower. The new machines also come
with Nordex's anti-icing system. Commercial deliveries of the new
machines are set to commence at the beginning of 2014, with
initial projects being installed from mid-2013. Finland's Raahen
Tuulienergia Oy will see two N117/3000 turbines installed in the
port area of the Northern Finnish town of Raahe. One turbine is to
be mounted on a 91 meter and the other on a 120 meter tower.
In mid-2012 Nordex also began series production of its newest
variant of the 2.4 MW platform, again featuring a longer 117 meter
rotor, the N117/2400 turbine.
GE, meanwhile, announced its new low wind onshore machine, the
2.5-120, at the end of January 2013. Featuring the company's new
“brilliant” technology, the turbine includes energy storage
capability. With 120 meter rotor diameter, GE says the machine has
a maximum hub height of 139 meters - suitable for forested regions
- and produces 15 percent more power than its current 2.5 MW
Vic Abate, vice president of GE's renewable energy business,
said: “Analyzing tens of thousands of data points every second,
the 2.5-120 integrates energy storage and advanced forecasting
algorithms while communicating seamlessly with neighboring
turbines, service technicians and customers.” The first prototype
of the 2.5-120, optimized for Class III sites, was expected to
have been installed in the Netherlands as REW goes to
press. The 2.5-120 will be available at 50 Hz and 60 Hz.
Spanish firm Gamesa [GCTAF],
with its range of onshore platforms from 850 kW through to 4.5 MW,
unveiled both on- and offshore turbines earlier in 2012. For the
onshore sector a new, longer bladed, version of its 2 MW platform
has been unveiled. New blades giving a rotor diameter of 114
meters will see this 2 MW machine become available in five
different rotor diameters: 80, 87, 90, 97 and 114 meters. Due to
be commercially launched in the second quarter of 2014, this Class
IIIA machine is designed for use at low-wind sites. The new
machine has a 38 percent larger swept area than its G97-2.0 MW
turbine and produces 20 percent more energy annually, Gamesa says.
Asia's Wind Technology Giants
Among the leading manufacturers based in Asia, Goldwind [002202.SZ]
has been busy with certification of its flagship permanent magnet
direct-drive platforms - it offers 1.5 MW, 2.5 MW, 3 MW machines.
In February 2013, variants of both its 1.5 MW and 2.5 MW PMDD
machines received ETL certification for US and Canadian markets
from assessment group Intertek.
The 1.5 MW was initially certified in August 2011, the latest
covers series products for low wind speed areas. In October 2012
the company announced that its 'ultra-low' wind 93 meter rotor
diameter variant of its 1.5 MW had received domestic certification
in China. This machine, the GW93/1500 was launched in April 2012
and is designed for IEC Class S, an annual average wind speed
lower than 6.5 meters per second.
During the first half of 2012, a prototype was installed in
Zhucheng, Shandong province. Based on operational field data, the
company says the turbine can produce close to 9 percent more power
on average than the earlier model GW87/1500 series turbines
(designed for IEC III class) under the same conditions.
Goldwind unveiled its 6 MW prototype in 2011 and plans to mass
produce the turbines by 2014. The company assembled several of the
six MW offshore wind turbines this year and plans to put at least
one into operation in the first half of 2012, the company said.
Meanwhile, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has
unveiled a novel hydraulic drivetrain. Test operations at its
Yokohama Dockyard & Machinery Works began in January 2013, the
Part of a project launched in September 2012 to develop a
hydraulic drivetrain for offshore turbines - supported by the New
Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) -
MHI says it will accelerate its development of system in the 7 MW
class, with installation and operation slated to begin at
Hunterston, in the U.K. An onshore demonstration unit in the UK
and an offshore floating wind farm project in Fukushima, Japan are
slated to begin trial operations in June 2013 and August 2014,
respectively, the company says. A mass-produced commercial model
will be targeted for market launch in 2015. The Yokohama system is
based on an existing MWT100 gear-driven wind generation system,
retrofitted with the new hydraulic drivetrain.
Sinovel, another global giant, has continued with its testing
program on its 2010-launched 5 MW and its 6 MW machine, launched
in May 2011. Sinovel has commercially launched 1.5 MW and 3 MW and
is in R&D and early production of its 5 MW and 6 MW turbines.
The company is also moving to develop a 10 MW machine, with the
project being listed in China's Central budgeting last autumn. The
turbine is expected to be installed as a demonstration project in
Jiangsu coastal area. China's National Development and Reform
Commission awarded Sinovel a grant of RMB42 million (US$6.6
million) to accelerate commercialization of the 10 MW offshore
design. Along with Sinovel both Goldwind and Guodian United Power
are competing to develop a 10 MW machine after the project was
deemed critical by the Chinese government last year.
Also in 2012, Sinovel teamed with Mita-Teknik to co-develop next
generation control systems. Sinovel will purchase PLC hardware and
the software with source code of the control systems from
Mita-Teknik. The same year the company also filed a patent for a
reactive voltage control system for a DFID wind generator.
However, a fatal crane accident last autumn while attempting to
lift a 5 MW wind turbine nacelle at the production facility in
Gansu Province and continued wrangles with AMSC
over intellectual property have rankled.
has also been active developing new versions of its existing
platforms. Mid-2012 saw the company reveal its S111 low-wind
turbine. This Class III 2.1 MW machine features a rotor diameter
of 111 meters. The platform is now available in rotor diameters of
88, 95, 97 and 111 meters. The S111 is available with tower
heights of 95 and 120 meters, and will deliver a 20-29 percent
increase in annual energy production over the S97 design. The
first prototype is due to be operational in late 2013 and serial
production is planned to begin in 2014. Suzlon also announced
improvements to IEC Class II machine, the S95 first introduced in
It's clear that the wind sector is benefitting from a surplus of
choice when it comes to a range of turbines from the world's
manufacturers. It's not all good news though. There have been
closures and go-slows, with Nordex cutting staff at its Dongying
blade manufacturing site in China and Sinovel ordering a go-slow
on production, for example. In the U.S., Vestas laid off workers
at blade factories in Colorado last year, with the company
reducing its workforce in the U.S. and Canada by about 20 percent
Nonetheless, while the ebb and flow of global business will
inevitably see production capacity ramp up and decline in response
to demand, at its core the wind business represents a technology
and innovation business. We see evidence for this beyond the new
variants and new machines. For instance, in the last year Gamesa
raised €260 million from the European Investment Bank for its
R&D+I investment program, focused on developing its two new
wind turbines. Meanwhile Enercon launched the construction of its
new R&D Centre, the Wobben Research & Development (WRD)
facilities, scheduled to be operational by mid-2013. Investment in
R&D pushes the economic boundaries of wind power today and
given evidence, that boundary is being pushed hard.
David Appleyard is Chief Editor of
World. He also currently holds the position of Chief Editor
for sister publication Hydro Review Worldwide. A journalist and
photographer, he graduated with a degree in Applied Environmental
This article was first
published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com, and is
reprinted with permission.