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GE unveils 4.8MW turbine

UNITED STATES: GE Renewable Energy has burst onto the 4MW onshore turbine market unveiling a 4.8MW machine, with a 158-metre rotor, one of the largest offered by any manufacturer.

GE Renewable Energy's 4.8MW-158 machine will be ready for commercial roll-out in 2019
GE Renewable Energy's 4.8MW-158 machine will be ready for commercial roll-out in 2019

The 4.8W turbine is the  Paris-based manufacturer's first foray in to the 4MW+ market and follows rivals Vestas, Nordex and Enercon with recent 4MW+ product launches.

GE said its machine will have the onshore industry's highest annual energy production (AEP).

"The LCOE [levelised cost of electricity] race ever ends," Pete McCabe, president & CEO of GE's onshore wind business, told reporters. "Our mission is to get in front and stay in front."

McCabe said the turbine's AEP will be roughly 30% higher than the company's 3MW series. For medium and low speed wind regimes, it will have 77-metre carbon blades with one of the industry's smallest bolt circle diameters, indicating lower weight blades.

A prototype will be installed by the end of 2018 — sites in Germany are being strongly considered. The turbine should be ready for commercial deployment by the end of 2019.

The turbine's markets are expected to include low- to medium-speed wind regimes such as Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Chile and Australia. The targeted markets are wherever 3MW products are sold, said McCabe.

Customers will enter projects using the turbine into the next auction round in Germany, said Andreas von Bobart, general manager of GE's onshore wind business in Germany.

Much was kept under wraps, but of the details revealed: It will have a doubly-fed induction generator (DFIG) and be available with tower heights of 101-metres, 120.9-metres, 149-metres and 161-metres. Tip heights range from 180-metres to 240-metres.

The 4.8MW machine should peak at 104dB during normal operation. That is "extremely low for a turbine of this size, and would establish a new competitive benchmark," said Aaron Barr of Make Consulting. For comparison, Vestas' V150-4.2MW has a maximum of 104.9dB.

GE's turbine has an up-tower electrical system, a new onshore strategy for the company, which it says will eliminate or reduce the need for larger cranes while easing up-tower repairs and troubleshooting and reducing O&M costs.

Globally, amongst all OEMs, Vestas dominates in 3MW+ offerings, while Siemens, Enercon, and Nordex Group are also focusing growth efforts on the 3MW+ category.

With such a large turbine, transport is an issue. McCabe said GE was still undecided if the blades will be modular. If not, then transport routes may have to be longer, increasing costs.

Of the new product, Make's Barr said: "This represents a bold move by GE to maintain a competitive advantage in the European onshore segment. Outside of Europe, many global markets are trending towards the 3MW+ class, GE is clearly planning for a long commercial lifecycle with this new turbine platform."

He noted that up-tower power electronics eliminated the need to ship separate assemblies for power converter and transformer. Locating the power electronics and transformer near the generator also reduces losses in the down-tower cables and can help to reduce damaging harmonics.

On the other challenges posed by the offering, he said that supply chain capacity that can manufacture such larger scale components "is limited and will face cost and volume challenges."

Alex Morgan of Bloomberg New Energy Finance said: "Following a series of mergers and acquisitions, GE was likely able to leverage several technological advances gained."

"These could include modular blade technology from GE's acquisition of Blade Dynamics, larger turbine design previously used for offshore sites from the Alstom merger, and access to other blade manufacturing facilities and advanced blade technology from GE's acquisition of LM Wind Power," Morgan added.

GE Renewable Energy is exhibiting at the Husum Wind 2017 event (12-15 September)

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