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Turbine Tech Turn Up: Machines for an Evolving Market

Presenting figures that show the global wind industry will install more than 46 GW of new wind energy capacity in 2012, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) forecasts that by the end of 2016, total global wind power capacity will be just under 500 GW, with an annual market in that year of about 60 GW*.

The turbines that will deliver the bulk of those forecasts are emerging now as companies gear up towards series production of the latest generation of machines by 2013 and 2014. As with the previous few years, the bulk of these developments appear to fall squarely into two camps. On the one hand are design upgrades and rotor diameter increases; on the other are the large offshore machines, several of which are now moving from pre-commercial trials onto the market.

New Turbines on the Market

While the areas of development may fall into two clear camps, some manufacturers are less easy to categorise so distinctly. Take Spanish player Gamesa, for example. This group appears to be pushing hard on new turbine developments, announcing a swathe of projects both on and offshore.

For the offshore sector, in May 2012 the company announced it will install its first new 5 MW prototype at Arinaga Quay in Gran Canaria Island, saying its decision was driven by technical and wind resource considerations, offshore market trends and investment return criteria.

The location will optimise returns on investment and has reduced transportation cost, due its proximity to Gamesa's factories in Spain, where the turbine will be manufactured, the company says. Indeed the announcement spells the end for activities at Cape Charles, Virginia, USA, the location of the Offshore Wind Technology Centre, opened jointly with Newport News Shipbuilding, which will now wind down at the end of the year as the design of the G11X-5.0 MW offshore platform is completed.

'The offshore wind power market is developing at a firm pace. However, demand is being tempered by economic and financial factors and the difficulties being encountered by developers in accessing credit. The authorities are firmly committed to the development of offshore wind power in major markets such as the UK, Germany, France and China. Based upon the current situation, the US market appears to be set to develop later than others. Regional and country specific market conditions warrant even more rational decision-making process than ever, from both the technology and financial standpoints,' said Jorge Calvet, chairman and CEO of Gamesa, explaining the decision.

Installation of the new machine is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2013, with a view to achieving certification in the following months, to permit the installations of the pre-series turbines towards the end of 2013 or early 2014.

The offshore prototype - the G128-5.0 MW (50 Hz) - has a 128 metre rotor diameter. It is based on the existing G10X-4.5 MW machine. The initial prototype of the G128-4.5 MW, featuring a semi-integrated main shaft in a two-stage gearbox with mid-speed range output and a permanent magnet synchronous generator using a full converter, connected to the grid in April 2009. Now installing the first pre-series of the machine, Gamesa says the blades have new aerodynamic features and a structure which substantially reduces the machine's weight.

Running parallel to the development of its offshore technology, Gamesa is making progress on the installation of its offshore manufacturing base, having recently announced it had entered in Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) talks with the Forth Ports at Leith, Scotland, regarding the establishment of two plants (blades and nacelles) for its UK offshore operations.

Meanwhile, Alstom has also declared its vision to move ahead with its offshore ambitions, recently installing the first prototype of its new 6 MW machine, featuring its 150 metre rotor diameter. This direct drive machine uses a permanent magnet generator from Converteam, which has equipped Alstom's two 6 MW offshore wind turbine prototypes. In March, the so-called Haliade 150 machine was commissioned at Carnet in the Loire-Atlantique, in France, ahead of year-long tests on land before a second turbine is placed in the sea off the Belgian coast in autumn 2012. Pre-series production is planned for 2013 with production in series due to start in 2014.

Meanwhile, Alstom and LM Wind Power have developed the 73.5 metre-long blades designed specifically for Alstom's offshore machine. The use of specifically developed material compounds will enable LM to maximise strength and durability while producing an exceptionally light blade, they say. The blades are currently the longest in the world and will be manufactured in partnership with LM Wind Power in Cherbourg.

The Carnet site was chosen for its geological characteristics that are very similar to the submarine environment in which the wind turbines will eventually be installed. The 25 metre sub-structure (known as the jacket) was installed on pillars driven more than 30 metres into the ground on which the 75 metre high tower was then mounted. The wind turbine and its support structure have a total combined weight of 1500 tonnes.

Sticking offshore, Germany's REpower Systems SE has now seen its 6 M turbines, rated at 6.15 MW, installed offshore after the first units were erected in March 2012 at the Thornton Bank wind project, 28 km off the coast of Belgium.

With 48 machines set to be developed at the site, REpower and Belgian offshore project development company C-Power NV will execute the installation of the first 30 turbines for phase 2 of the wind farm, planned for 2012, as well as a further 18 designated for installation during a third extension stage by mid-2013.

With a diameter of 126 metres, three prototypes of the REpower 6M were installed at the Ellhöft wind farm, near the German-Danish border, in 2009. In 2008, REpower installed six of its 5M turbines for the first construction phase of Thornton Bank in water 12-27 metres deep. A further two turbines will be installed in the Westereems wind farm near Eemshaven in the Dutch province of Gronigen, a few kilometres from the German border. Completion is planned for mid-2012. RWE Innogy will use this machine at its Nordsee Ost offshore wind farm, some 30 km North of Helgoland. A total of 48 of the 6M turbines will be delivered over the course of 2012.


In a related development, on the last day of 2011, REpower acquired from SGL Rotec GmbH & Co. KG the remaining 49% stake in PowerBlades GmbH which it did not own. PowerBlades was founded in 2007 as a joint venture for the production of rotor blades for wind turbines. 'The acquisition of the shares enables us to continue growth at our site in Bremerhaven as well as in the offshore sector,' said Gregor Gnädig, REpower's chief operating officer. The move followed the autumn 2011 completion of a hall expansion at Bremerhaven that will support 300 MW of additional production capacity from 2012.

Elsewhere in the offshore sector, Areva's Multibrid 5 MW M5000 platform is also set for series production in 2013-14. Late 2011 the company unveiled the latest product extension of its M5000 product platform with a new 135 metre rotor diameter version of the hybrid drive machine. With the 66 metre long blades the M5000's swept area will increase by 35% to 14,326 m2. Serial manufacture of the M5000-135 is expected in the second half of 2014. Areva Wind general manager Jean Huby explained: 'Lowering the cost of energy in relation to offshore wind energy output is essential for the industry.'

Meanwhile, GE has announced that its 4.1-113 offshore turbine it has nicknamed 'Big Glenn' - GE's first direct-drive offshore wind turbine - passed its initial 200 hour trial run. 'The variation in wind speed gives the team confidence that the turbine performs reliably under all wind conditions,' says Vincent Schellings, offshore product manager for GE Energy, adding: 'Now we will begin validating the design and obtain initial results before summer. Our initial focus will be on the power curve and loads validation.'

Widely acknowledged as the current offshore wind market leader with its 3.6 MW, 120 metre rotor machine, Siemens has continued development of its new 6 MW direct drive turbine.

In a clear move towards offshore commercialisation of its latest offering, Danish utility group DONG Energy has received full consent to test two of the turbines at their Gunfleet Sands 3 demonstration project site off the coast of South East England. The two turbines are due to be installed by November with construction starting as REW goes to press. Featuring direct drive technology, the two turbines will have a rotor diameter of 120 metre with a swept area of 11,500 m2.

Siemens is currently testing and validating the performance of the turbine and a pre-series of up to 50 SWT-6.0 wind turbines will be installed at on- and offshore sites in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK during 2012 and 2013, it says. The SWT-6.0 will be available with rotor diameters of 120 metres and 154 metres and a tophead mass of 350 tonnes. The SWT-6.0-154 will be using the new 75 metre long B75 Quantum Blade, while the SWT-6.0-120 is to be equipped with the B58 rotor blade used on the SWT-3.6-120.

The SWT-6.0-120 is the third direct drive wind turbine type developed by Siemens. 'In tendency large wind turbines have always been heavier per megawatt than small ones. The SWT-6.0-120 breaks this rule, having a weight per megawatt similar to that of many turbines in the 2 to 3 MW range,' says Henrik Stiesdal, chief technology officer of the Siemens Wind Power Business Unit.

Meanwhile, in December last year, Siemens signed a strategic alliance with Shanghai Electric that will see two new 49:51 joint ventures created for the Chinese wind power market. In each of the ventures, Siemens will have a stake of 49% and its Chinese partner Shanghai Electric 51%. One of the joint ventures will be engaged in R&D and production of wind turbine equipment for the Chinese market and for Siemens' global supply network. The second will be responsible for sales, marketing, project management and execution as well as service in China.

Also in China, Sinovel has recently received GL Renewables Certification Design Assessment compliance for its SL 3000/90 50 Hz offshore wind turbine. The turbine uses variable speed control and double-fed inductive generator. The SL3000 series is suitable for onshore, offshore and intertidal installation, and is designed to be adaptable to a variety of wind energy resource conditions, as well as being available in a cold climate version and 60 Hz versions.

New Onshore Designs

Late April saw Enercon unveil its latest turbine, the E-92/2.3 MW. This new machine, which has a 92 metre rotor diameter and is rated at 2.3 MW, is another designed for inland sites with far less wind.

The new device has the same major components as the E-82, such as generator, main carrier, grid feed system, and WEC control system. Specified for wind class IIA zones, its newly developed rotor blades are 5 metres longer, yet lighter, then those of its stable mate, the company says, adding that the new machine can deliver 10%-15% more yield than the E-82.

The GRP blades are manufactured using the same half shell and vacuum infusion technique, but have a different profile and a redesigned internal structure. 'The aerodynamic profile has been modified in such a way that it minimises stress on the machine and increases energy yields at the same time,' states Alexander Hoffmann, engineering manager of the Enercon rotor blade division. Managing Director Hans-Dieter Kettwig cited the attractive price-performance ratio of generating power, by adding: 'No other form of renewable energy offers a cheaper price per kilowatt hour'.

Gamesa's latest offshore development came just weeks after the company had launched a new turbine, the G114-2.0 MW, designed for better returns at low-wind speed sites. With the first machines expected to be delivered in late 2013 the Class IIIA machine features a 114 metre diameter rotor with a swept area of 10,207 m2. The machine is offered at a range of tower height options from 93 metres to 140 metres or higher, depending on the target location.

Claiming the lowest power density on the market for its segment, the new machine is based on the G9X-2.0 MW platform, which is offered with a selection of five different rotors from 80-114 metres. Gamesa says it will begin manufacturing initial prototypes of the G114-2.0 MW in the third quarter of 2013, with the first turbines supply to begin at the end of the same year.

The company has also announced the European-wide launch of its major turbine components (gearbox, generator and blade) reconditioning services business. It aims to extend the useful life of wind turbines and lower operation and maintenance (O&M) costs by upgrading and replacing internal turbine parts with the most up-to-date technologies. By enabling owners to optimise and lengthen the lifespan of their machines they improve turbine yield and the productivity of their wind farm projects, Gamesa says. The company considers its O&M business as a cornerstone of future profitable growth thanks to its potential for producing recurring revenues.


In the onshore segment, REpower presented a 50 Hz version of its new MM100 wind turbine last autumn. With rated capacity of 2 MW, 100 metre rotor diameter and a 100 metre tower, the turbine was specially developed for low-wind speed locations. A prototype of the MM100 50 Hz is to be constructed in mid-2012 and the serial launch is planned for 2013. The MM series first began production in 2002.

'We are currently experiencing great demand for large-rotor turbines,' explained Andreas Nauen, CEO of REpower at the launch. With a claimed 104.8 dB(A), the MM100 is also the quietest turbine of its class, REpower says.

In mid-March Siemens launched its new gearless wind turbine for low to moderate wind speeds, the SWT-2.3-113, with a prototype of the new machine installed in the Netherlands. Featuring direct drive and a compact permanent magnet generator, with a capacity of 2.3 MW and a rotor diameter of 113 metres the new machine is designed to maximise power production at sites with low to moderate wind speeds. It is fitted with the Siemens B55 Quantum Blades. To date, Siemens has installed and commissioned a total of five gearless SWT-3.0-101 wind turbines in Denmark and Norway.

This year Dutch wind turbine manufacturer Lagerwey Systems completed installation two of its new L93-2.6 MW turbines at Test Site Lelystad in the Netherlands. The project was funded by standard wind farm financing from Rabo Bank in the Netherlands. The turn-key project also includes a long-term full service agreement for the installed turbines with Lagerwey Systems.

Lagerwey Wind expects the A certificate for L93-2.6MW to be obtained during 2012. With the launch of L93-2.6MW, the company is now dedicating resources to design and develop a new 3.5 MW wind onshore turbine in 2012-13. The company also has a conceptual design for the 6 MW offshore turbine and is considering developing the turbine with selected strategic partners for mass production.

Also set to undergo testing at Lelystad is Leitwind's new generation of direct drive wind turbines, the LTW101 and LTW104 for both medium and low wind speed regions. The new turbines operate with a synchronous generator using permanent magnets.

The LTW101 is a 3 MW wind turbine for medium wind sites and the LTW104 is a 2-2.5 MW machine for medium and low wind sites. Furthermore there is a choice of two different hub heights, 95 metres and 143 metres. The first prototype of the LTW101 IIA will be installed this year while the new prototypes of the LTW104 are due to start trial operations at the end of 2012.

GE has also revealed a new onshore machine for the European market with the debut of its 1.6-100 turbines for Fina Enerji's Tayakadin wind project in Istanbul, Turkey. 'GE's 1.6-100 technology builds on the broad experience of our 1.5 and 2.5 MW series, with more than 17,500 of those units installed today,' said Stephan Ritter, general manager of GE's Renewable Energy business in Europe. Featuring a 100 metre rotor diameter and 80 metre hub height, the 1.6-100 provides the highest capacity factor of any wind turbine for class III sites, GE claims. GE also announced a new maintenance tool - PulsePOINT Advanced Monitoring and Diagnostic Services - which it says helps reduce costs and achieve optimal energy production by increasing reliability. The system collects wind farm and fleet data from hundreds of turbine sensors and key SCADA control parameters.

Meanwhile, Nordex - which recently announced plans to withdraw from offshore and sell the assets - has showcased new towers for the N117/2400 onshore turbine, which it is now offering on 91 metre and 120 metre tubular steel towers as well as in Europe on a 141 metre hybrid tower, again for low wind areas in difficult or complex terrain.

With new designs and upgrades evidently coming thick and fast, the broad trends that are seeing firms move towards larger offshore machines and extend the low wind performance of their portfolios look set to continue. As always, the next few years will see tomorrow's projects populated with today's prototypes.


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