Vestas makes biggest offshore turbine yet

DENMARK: Vestas has launched its biggest turbine yet - the 7MW V164 - and the first the company has developed specifically for the offshore sector.

However, questions remain about where the turbine is to be built.

Speaking at the launch, Vestas president Ditlev Engel said: "The V164 represents the biggest research and development investment Vestas has made." However, Engel warned that both "political and commercial" support would have to be present if the turbine were to be manufactured on a large scale.

Engel said the turbine would need a new manufacturing base, although no decision had been made on where this will be located He said it was likely to be partially dependent on the number of orders and their location. Some analysts saw this as a request for government support, both in terms of subsidies and legislation.

The only confirmation Vestas made regarding the manufacturing was that the V164's 80-metre blades would be developed at the company's Isle of Wight research and development centre, in southern England.

Production of the V164 will start in Q3 2014, with full-scale production taking place in Q1 2015.

Speaking at the launch, Engel said: "Seeing the positive indications from governments worldwide, and especially from the UK, to increase the utilisation of wind energy is very promising. We look forward to this new turbine doing its part in making these political targets a reality."

Vestas also surprised the industry with some of its technological choices for the V164, most notably its 7MW capacity; prior to the launch it was thought to be only 6MW. Additionally Vestas said it would be a geared turbine rather than direct drive.

Vestas Technology president Finn Stromm Madsen said it was an evolution of the V112 3MW. The tip height of the turbine will be 187 metres and it has been designed for water depths of no more than 45 metres. (see pXX for a technical analysis of the V164).

Unusually, Vestas launched the V164 in London, rather than at one of this year's trade fairs. Vestas said this was primarily as a way of targeting Britain's 33GW round-three offshore plans, although the V164 was launched with the whole of northern Europe in mind.

Over the past year, the UK has subsidised a number of wind turbine manufacturers that are planning to develop products for Round 3. These include Siemens, Gamesa, Clipper Windpower, Mitsubishi and GE.

However, the first V164 will be deployed in Belgian, rather than UK, waters. Two weeks after the V164 launch, wind developer Belwind said it would be offering turbine testing space at its Blyth Bank offshore project in the southern North Sea and that Vestas would be one of its first customers. The first prototype of the turbine will be built and developed between Q4 2012 and Q1 2014.

Coincidentally, Alstom's 6MW offshore turbine will also be tested at the Blyth Bank site. Many of the V164's competitors for round-three projects are also being lined up for testing. The first Siemens 6MW turbine is being tested by Dong at its UK Gunfleet Sands wind farm, while Gamesa's 4.5MW turbine will be tested in the US in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.

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