The 10 Biggest Turbines in the World

As wind energy pushes to reduce the cost of energy, manufacturers have increasingly sought to increase the size of turbines. Economically, and environmentally, it makes good sense. A study by Swiss and Dutch Scientists, led by Marloes Caduff from ETH Zurich’s Institute of Environmental Engineering, showed that the larger the turbine is, the greener the electricity. This effect was due both to size of the turbine as well as the learning and experience gained with the technology over time.

Many of the turbines here have been developed over the last two years, the exception being the Enercon E126. More are undoubtedly on the way but still only exist on paper, such as the Mitsubishi 7MW Sea Angel or the Areva/ Gamesa 8MW. All of the turbines here exist, even if they are not commercially available yet.

On a final note, the criteria is based on capacity and, where this is the same, on blade diameter.

The V164 8MW turbine is the latest addition to the to top 10 list. The Vestas V164 came online in January 2014, nearly three years after the project was first unveiled in London. Curiously for an offshore turbine, the V164 is geared. Other notable features include a 80 metre-long blades and a lightweight nacelle that won the design innovation category in Windpower Monthly's annual wind turbine awards. The first machine has been installed for testing at the Danish national wind turbine test centre at Osterild.

The majority of the turbines on this list are designed for the offshore market. But Enercon 's E126 7.5MW, is purely designed for the onshore sector. The initial 6MW second-generation Enercon E-126, introduced in 2007, featured a concrete tower with a 135-metre hub height, and segmented steel-composite hybrid blades with a 127-metre rotor diameter. It also holds a 12-metre diameter generator. Around 34 E-126 units are operational.

Samsung's 7MW is the latest addition to the top 10 and one of a number of next generation in development for the market. This is the first prototype to be built (at a test site in Scotland) and was only completed in October. Among its features, it includes the world's longest turbine blade at almost 85-metres. To put this in context this record has been extended by almost 10 metres over the last year. Unfortunately, this machine is unlikely to go into production following the Korean company's move to exit offshore wind in 2014.

Like the Samsung 7MW, the MHI SeaAngel was installed in Scotland in early 2015. It has two other similarities, firstly it is 7MW and secondly it is unlikely to go into full scale production. MHI is likely to mothball the machine as its JV with Vestas means it will be using the V164. Although the SeaAngel's hydraulic drive train may be passed on to the V164 at a later date. This machine is third place behind the Samsung because of its slightly smaller rotor, which is 167-metres.

While there are numerous 6MW prototypes in existence, Repower 's 6.2MW onshore/ offshore turbine is currently the largest turbine installed on the open sea. The turbine aims to build on the success of its 5MW predecessor, one of the largest when launched in 2004 and used in a number of North Sea and Irish Sea projects such as the 150MW Ormonde wind farm. The turbine's rotor width is 126-metres while offshore the tower height is between 85-95 metres.

Siemens’ 6MW offshore machine only exists as an onshore prototype, but it is set to have the world's largest blade at 75-metres long. It is the follow-up to arguably the most successful wind turbine, the SWT 3.6 120. Siemens have got off to a good start with the turbine, signing a 1.8GW €2.9 billion deal with Dong Energy. The machine has a lot to live up to, as its predecessor the SWT 120 3.6 is generally regarded as the best turbine in the offshore sector.

Another one of a number of 6MW offshore wind turbines, Alstom 's Haliade is currently being tested in France. Prior to Siemens' 75-metre blade, the Haliade held the record with its 73-metre blades co-developed with LM Wind Power. The turbine, which is already set to form the bulk of France's 3GW offshore programme, uses a direct-drive permanent-magnet generator with a 7.5-metre diameter and has been installed Carnet in the Loire-Atlantique region. It will undergo a series of tests over the next year before a second turbine is installed in Belgian waters.

Sinovel 's SL6000 6MW turbine is currently being tested in China, and is the country's largest wind turbine. The turbine has a 128 metre diameter rotor. It has been tested at -45 degrees Celsius, and a wind speed of 62.5 metres per second. It also has the low-voltage ride-through capacity, a necessity for installation in Chinese wind farms. The machine is descended from the SL5000, which is also being tested. Moreover the company also claims to be in the latter stages of designing a 10MW machine.

The Areva M5000, in theory at least, is one of the oldest turbines on this list. Originally developed by Aerodyn in the late-90s the 5MW machine is one of the few offshore turbines on this list that is in use commercially (at the Alpha Ventus project in the German North Sea). Last year, the Areva announced it was upgrading the turbine's rotor from 113-metres to 136-metres. It is set to be used on one of the French offshore projects in the English Channel.

Gamesa 's 5MW turbine is essentially a scale-up of its 4.5MW onshore machine. The turbine, which is currently being tested in Gran Canaria, has a 128-metre rotor and like most offshore turbines is designed for class I wind speeds. The machine is designed for near-shore areas however it's low weight means the machine can use a monopile foundation in depths of up to 35-metres. Originally the 5MW was envisaged as an offshore/ onshore machines, but is now onshore-only due to the tie-up with Areva.

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