Enercon supersize turbine spearheads rollout

GERMANY: German turbine builder Enercon has upscaled its 6MW E-126 turbine to 7.5MW, it confirmed at the Hanover trade fair in April. This is the largest wind turbine type in the world.

World’s largest turbine The Enercon E-126 has a rating of 7.5MW
World’s largest turbine The Enercon E-126 has a rating of 7.5MW

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It has already installed 15 of the giant machines, although it has not announced the development publicly. Some turbines are still a nominal 6MW as construction permits have to be adjusted to take account of the higher output. Enercon expects to install another 11 of the turbines in Germany this year. The most recent installation of the turbine type, commissioned in March, was on the property of car manufacturer Volkswagen, in the port of Emden.

A 7.5MW turbine can generate about 20GWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power 5,000 four-person-households, according to Enercon. Last autumn, the company obtained its own Terex Demag CC 9800 crane, which has a maximum lifting capacity of 360 tonnes, enough to hoist the machine's 340-tonne hub with its pre-assembled inner-blade segments.

Bigger range

Enercon is also expanding its turbine range with two 3MW models. One is designed for strong wind, while the other is more appropriate for inland sites. "We think it will be this capacity class above all that will exploit the European potential of 80GW to be installed by 2013," says Stefan Lutkemeyer, Enercon sales manager.

The design uses more advanced cast-iron components and an optimised cooling system, which allows the turbine to operate at 3MW while largely maintaining the component sizes as well as the transport and manufacturing dimensions of the 2MW turbine. The basic technology is nothing new; steam locomotives from around the turn of the 20th century had cooling units of a similar shape to those now found in new Enercon turbines.

The prototype 3MW turbine for strong wind regions was installed in January, with series production due to begin towards the end of 2010, while the prototype for inland sites will be installed in the summer, with serial production expected to begin in 2011.

At the Hanover fair, Enercon managing director Hans-Dieter Kettwig also outlined the firm's investment plans, which are substantial. In 2009, the company invested between EUR150 million and EUR190 million and it is planning an increase on that in 2010. This outlay was greater than the EUR185 million it forecast last year and compares with a EUR175 million investment in 2008.

The E-ship

Perhaps the most remarkable project is Enercon's transport ship, dubbed E-ship. It is equipped with four rotating cylinders, each 25 metres tall, which are driven by electric motors that use wind to give the vessel extra thrust. The company believes these cylinders are ten times more effective than classical sails.

The ship uses technology adapted from Enercon turbines, such as the power converter and generator technology. An innovative rudder and propeller system will help to reduce fuel consumption, the firm says. The ship is especially designed for transporting Enercon turbines and has space for up to 20 3MW machines without towers. The first shipment is due to take place in the summer.

Back on dry land, Enercon is building a factory for concrete tower segments at Matane in Quebec, Canada. The factory is due to start operations at the end of July. Until now the company has installed turbines in Canada exclusively using steel towers. At the end of March, Enercon had a total 329MW of capacity in operation in Canada. Work on a new tower factory in France will also begin in September (see 'Enercon set to double turnover').

Last year was big for tower manufacture. In October, Enercon's tower specialist, WEC Turmbau, inaugurated a factory for precast concrete towers in Magdeburg-Rothensee, an existing Enercon production location in eastern Germany. During the same month, WEC Turmbau started production of pre-stressing tendons for precast concrete towers at a new facility at Enercon's Emden location.

Last year the company also built a new foundry for production of large cast-iron parts, named GZO Guss-Zentrum Ostfriesland, at Georgsheil near the company's headquarters in Aurich. It was inaugurated in April.

The company now has a total 463,000 square metres of production area divided between works at Aurich, Emden and Magdeburg in Germany, as well as works in Sweden, Brazil, Turkey and Portugal.

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