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Close-up: Acciona's AW3000 platform

WORLDWIDE: Acciona Windpower global product line director Scott Baron talks about the company's 3MW platform and its potential markets around the world.

Acciona's AW3000 turbine
Acciona's AW3000 turbine

Six years after installing its first 3MW AW3000 in Spain, Acciona Windpower has produced  the AW125/3000, a low-wind version for IEC IIIA sites. After a slow start for turbine commercialisation and manufacturing ramp-up, Baron reported record global sales during the past 12 months, amounting to more than 500 turbines.

By the end of 2013 AW3000’ combined capacity was around 175MW with another 800MW planned in 2014. Around 120MW of the current installed base is for the AW116/3000, spread over Spain, the US, Canada, Poland and Brazil.

High-speed

The AW3000 comprises a "conventional" non-integrated high-speed geared drivetrain with a main shaft supported by two bearings, and a 12kV doubly-fed induction generator. According to Baron, this voltage level, compared with common much lower levels, might eliminate the need for a medium-voltage step-up transformer for wind projects located close to the project substation. He estimated lifecycle-based net present value (NPN) benefits to be generally in the EUR30,000-50,000/MW range, with significant impact on project returns.

The pitch-controlled variable speed AW3000 turbine platform initially comprised two models, the AW100/3000 and AW109/3000, with an AW116/3000 model added in 2011. The current main volume model is the AW116/3000 for IEC class IIA, available with a 120-metre concrete tower or a 92-metre tubular steel tower. "Our present AW3000 sales include large important deals in the US, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Chile, and Turkey," said Baron.  "There is equal overall interest in the AW116/3000’ 120-metre concrete and the 92-metre steel towers. Some towers are more economically suited in certain markets."

The use of concrete is really successful in markets with local-content rules such as Brazil, where steel is also expensive. In the US, Acciona has had success with the shorter steel tower.

Shear

Speaking about tower selection, Baron said: "An interesting steel tower variant is a four-section design with a 87.5 metre hub height, which offers favourable economics, especially for sites with lower wind-shear values. Our tower portfolio now also includes a 120-metre steel tower option for the AW116/3000 and the new AW125/3000."

When asked about taller concrete towers and/or a switching to concrete-steel towers for greater hub heights, Baron said: "We are able to produce taller tower concrete towers but haven’t fully developed this option yet. Wet are particularly interested in developing this for northern Europe and Scandinavia. Tall concrete-steel hybrid towers is another option we are looking at."

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