The first wind turbine over 3 MW for commercial power applications is a 3.6 MW machine developed by GE Wind Energy, a business unit of GE Power Systems.Orlando, Florida – December 12, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] Now operating in Spain, this milestone was reached in September 2002 when the prototype turbine began producing power for the grid of Spanish energy supplier Iberdrola. The first wind turbine expressly designed and optimized for offshore applications, the 3.6 MW machine is one of the largest wind turbine prototypes ever erected. The turbine is installed on farmland leased by GE, located 230 kilometers southeast of Madrid in Castilla la Mancha, Spain. GE selected this location because the winds closely approximate those of offshore wind conditions. Ground was broken for the project in September of 2001, and the 3.6 MW wind turbine was connected to the Spanish grid on September 17, 2002. The turbine was operating at nominal power less than a month later. “The new 3.6 MW machine represents the most advanced wind turbine technology available in the world. With its patented power electronics, variable speed rotor and specially designed offshore enhancements, it is cost effective, highly reliable and will provide both ease of installation and maintenance in the remote, offshore environment,” said Steve Zwolinski, GE Wind Energy president and CEO. “We are excited to be at the forefront of this leading technology and look forward to providing our customers with this advanced alternative for offshore wind generation. Once prototype testing is complete, the new wind turbine is expected to be commercially available worldwide in 2004.” Based on the proven technology of the GE 1.5 MW wind turbine series – over 1,150 of the 1.5 MW units are in operation worldwide – the 3.6 MW machine was specifically configured for high wind speed sites. With an increased generator size, a rotor diameter of 104 meters and a swept area of 8,495 square meters, the new wind turbine is ideal for offshore markets worldwide. The machine also includes GE Wind Energy’s patented voltage control technology that facilitates grid integration by improving grid voltage stability and overall system reliability. The land-based prototype 3.6 MW wind turbine has a hub height of 100 meters and a rated power output of 3,600 kW. The offshore variant will have a 75-meter hub height since there is less wind shear offshore. Erected in collaboration with the University of Albacete in May of 2002, the 3.6 MW prototype features a proven distributed drive train, variable rotor speed (8.5 – 15.3 rpm), blade pitch regulation and a double fed asynchronous generator. A range of technical innovations also was incorporated to keep the overall turbine Cost of Energy (COE) down including new blades, an improved gearbox concept and adjustments to the structure to enhance load absorption and optimize assembly, transport and service logistics. The new wind turbine is equipped with an optional 40-ton internal crane, allowing for the exchange of all major components including, rotor blades, gearbox and generator without external support by heavy cranes. A second, two-ton internal gantry crane facilitates easy repair and maintenance in the nacelle. The integration of an electrical container that houses sensitive electrical components (control panel, converter, switching systems and transformer) directly beneath the nacelle, allows for better access during maintenance work, improved protection against corrosion, and excellent logistic for installation and repair work. Additionally, the 3.6 MW wind turbine can be fitted with a helicopter-hoisting platform on the nacelle, providing helicopter access to the turbine and making service teams less affected by the variation of the waves. The turbine is currently undergoing extensive prototype testing. Once the test period is complete, the 3.6 MW machines will be assembled in Salzbergen, Germany and in the USA for American applications.