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Hamburg Highlights in 2018: Giant New Wind Turbines

Jesse Broehl
Oct 19, 2018

Wind Energy 2

The annual WindEnergy Hamburg conference in Germany is often when wind turbine OEMs announce new turbines and related technology advances. The September 2018 conference was no exception. Navigant Research rounds up the notable announcements.

First Commercial Availability of a Double-Digit Megawatt Wind Turbine

MHI Vestas takes the honor of being the first wind turbine OEM to offer a double-digit MW wind turbine for commercial sale—the V164-10.0 MW offshore wind turbine. For context, 10 years ago, average offshore wind turbine size was 3 MW. The MHI Vestas turbine was unveiled at the Hamburg conference for commercial installations beginning in 2021. Other companies, such as General Electric (GE), have announced plans to build double-digit megawatt wind turbines (the Haliade-X 12 MW offshore turbine), but MHI Vestas is the first to officially offer turbines for commercial sale.

The achievement of 10 MW is notable because this turbine continues to build upon the original design of MHI Vestas’ first large-scale offshore wind turbine, the V164-7.0 MW, including using the same 164 m rotor diameter as the first version. The turbine was officially announced all the way back in 2011 and saw its first commercial order in 2014 for the 258 MW Burbo Bank offshore project in the UK.

The step change of MW nameplate rating by 3 MW increments while using the same rotor is an unusual achievement and is testament to the underlying advancements in other areas of the wind turbine. MHI Vestas explained the turbine scaling was made possible through lessons learned from the previous 7.0 MW, 8.0 MW, and 9.5 MW units, including strengthening of the gearbox, minor mechanical upgrades to increase airflow, and increase cooling of the power converter.

The step change to 10 MW while using the same 164 m rotor also illuminates the strategically smart decision to initially overachieve in rotor diameter size with the first models. This provides a cost-effective iteration roadmap for the underlying machine to grow into the maximum potential of its rotor diameter without requiring costly blade/rotor redesign and associated blade molds and tooling.

That being said, a larger rotor variant is likely just around the corner. In September 2018, Windpower Monthly uncovered that Vestas secured trademarks for the words V174-9.0 and V174-9.1 in the European Union. If 174 m units begin at the 9 MW range, how large a nameplate can those units be upscaled? 12 MW to compete with GE Renewables, or the yet undisclosed next generation turbine offering from offshore wind leader Siemens Gamesa (which has a top current turbine of 8 MW)?

GE Renewables Breaks the 5 MW Onshore Barrier

Onshore wind turbines above 5 MW are rare, mostly because transportation becomes cost prohibitive. GE Renewables announced the upcoming commercial availability of its new Cyprus platform of 5 MW plus turbines for the onshore sector. In September 2017, GE Renewables joined the increasingly competitive 4 MW class with a new 4.8 MW unit featuring a 158 m rotor.

The announcement at the WindEnergy Hamburg conference reveals a scaled-up unit rated at 5.3 MW using the same 158 m rotor diameter as its 4.8 MW counterpart. Both units are enabled by two-piece blades made partly of carbon fiber. Two-piece blades are also rare in the wind market but may become essential to enabling the cost-effective transport of blades for onshore wind turbines with rotors over 150 meters in length. GE’s acquisition of blade companies LM Wind Power played a big role in enabling the new blades.

Green Light Certification for Nordex’s N149/4.0-4.5 Platform

Lastly, while Germany-based Nordex had previously announced and installed prototypes of its new N131-4.8 and N149/4.0-4.5 MW platforms earlier this year, Nordex was able to announce at the Hamburg conference the all-important, third-party certification of International Electrotechnical Commission standards of the units by wind turbine certification group TÜV SÜD, clearing the way for immediate commercial sales.