NREL, GE Energy Partner for Next-Gen Offshore Wind Turbines

From the country with still not one wind turbine installed offshore comes news of a partnership between GE Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on a research and development contract to build a new fleet of next generation offshore wind turbines. And with the turbines expected in the 5-7 MW range, these could be the largest turbines ever built.

The $27 million dollar partnership would engage the efforts of the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, and would reflect one of the largest renewable energy contracts to date with the prominent laboratory. Research will likewise be scheduled for GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY. Approximately $8 million of the offshore wind project will be cost-shared by DOE. The power rating of the turbine will be optimized for minimal cost of energy but is expected to double the current standard, states the release. Prices, which now range around 9.5 cents per kWh could come down as low as 5 cents per kWh by the end of the three to four year partnership. “We are striving to better meet our customers’ needs,” said Jim Lyons, Chief Engineer for Electrical Systems at GE’s Research Center and leader of Advanced Technology for GE’s Wind Energy Business. “Our research team is focused on designing a new wind turbine that will not only be one of the most powerful in the world, but sets new standards in efficiency, reliability, and cost of energy as well.” A wind turbine of this magnitude would be nearly twice the industry standard, with full commercialization of this offshore design still years away. Expanding the energy-generating capacity of wind will make it more cost competitive with other alternative sources of energy. In fact, recent advances in wind technology are already helping to drive down the cost of wind to a level where it is cost competitive with more traditional sources of energy as well — close to five cents per kilowatt-hour. It is generally believed that wind, which encompasses less than one percent of the world’s energy market, could grow to as much as 15% of the overall global energy supply in the coming decades as Europe, the U.S. and other parts of the world take advantage of this clean, sustainable source of energy. A key component of GE’s ecomagination initiative, in which GE has pledged to more than double its level of investment in the development of cleaner technologies from $700 million to $1.5 billion over the next five years, is wind energy. “Wind is the fastest growing sector of the energy market, and GE has become one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers,” said Lyons. Currently, GE’s largest turbine in operation is the 3.6 MW offshore wind turbine.
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