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Turbines of the year: Cost competition drives new designs

WORLDWIDE: The wind industry's major manufacturers and their main component suppliers are responding to a new market environment, one increasingly driven by subsidy-free, competitive tendering. We pick the year's outstanding wind turbines, drivetrains, rotor blades and innovations.

Four words: levelised cost of energy.

That was the driving force for the wind-power industry's research and development departments during 2017. Wind energy is entering a new era, increasingly cost-competitive with the traditional generating sources, no longer dependent on subsidies and support schemes. It has to stand on its own feet on economic grounds.

Classes and criteria

Wind turbines are judged in three classes: up to 2.9MW, 3MW-plus and offshore.

There are also selections for drivetrains, rotor blades and the year's most promising innovations.

To qualify in the turbine classes, the model needs to have been made available for commercial order in the past 12 months, with at least one prototype installed and operating. Working prototypes are also required in the components categories.

Radical thinking and innovative technology are only part of our criteria. Among other things we examine the quality of the product's design and manufacture, its track record, impact on the market - including numbers sold, industrialisation stage and expected advancements, service friendliness and reliability-enhancing aspects. The key question is simply: does it generate more electricity when required, and at a lower upkeep cost?

Fast forward

Windpower Monthly's annual Turbine of the Year feature has been running since January 2013. Plans are now under way for further expansion of the judging categories to highlight other aspects of the global wind energy industry beyond the technology and hardware. We expect to bring you further details of the wind-power "Oscars" during the course of 2018.

KEY TO TABLES

BDFIG - brushless doubly fed induction generator

C&GFRE - carbon and glass-fibre reinforced epoxy

DD - direct drive

DFIG - doubly fed induction generator

EESG - electrically excited synchronous generator

GFRE - glass-fibre reinforced expoxy

HH - hub height

HSG - high-speed geared

IG - induction generator

LSG - low-speed geared

MSG - medium-speed geared

OEM - original equipment manufacturer

PCVS - pitch-controlled variable-speed

XXX - choice in generators

IEC - class site ratings I, IIA, IIIB, etc (high, medium and low wind in descending order; A-C is turbulence intensity in descending order; S meets special conditions outside class requirements

ONSHORE TURBINES UP TO 2.9MW

Still the most fiercely contested and volume end of the market, especially in China and the US

Best in class

Vestas V116-2.1MW

ONSHORE TURBINES 3MW-PLUS

Fast-growing sector, especially in low- and medium-wind sites in developed markets

Best in class

Goldwind GW140/3MW

OFFSHORE TURBINES

Consolidating market draws breath before the next big step into 10MW-plus waters

Best in class

MHI Vestas V164-9.5MW

DRIVETRAINS

Sector adapting to higher power outputs and changing grid demands

Best in class

ZF medium-speed gearbox for MHI Vestas V164-9.5MW

ROTOR BLADES

Ease of manufacture plays a growing role in development as blades continue to grow in size

Best in class

Siemens Gamesa B82 rotor blade

INNOVATION

Wind power has not lost its ability to surprise, as this year's selection indicates

Best in class

Aerodyn 15MW SCDnezzy2

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