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.
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