Turbines could exceed 15MW to lower LCOE

WORLDWIDE: Increased competition could prompt development of offshore turbines with capacities beyond 15MW and rotors of up-to 250 metres, according to new research.

GE's 12MW Haliade-X turbine is currently the most powerful offshore turbine in development

Onshore, turbines could reach 5MW-plus with rotors larger than 175 metres, according to analysts at Make Consulting.

Manufacturers have accelerated the pace of new product introductions, often with higher-rated turbines and larger rotors, to remain competitive as markets transition to auction systems.

Through innovation with more powerful, larger turbines, OEMs can stay competitive in this global shift.

Tender transition

The transition in many markets around the world to auction systems leads to short commercial life-cycles of turbine platforms, the analysts stated in a research note.

To deliver lower LCOE (levelised cost of energy) for developers successful in tenders, OEMs will exploit design margins, and optimise investments in the supply chain.

OEMs can offset investments in more frequently updated platforms through higher volumes, Make suggested.

Logistics and transportation continue to pose crucial challenges for developers adopting larger rotors.

Transporting blades from the production site to the wind farm is less of an issue for offshore projects, the consulting firm added, as the supply chain is built closer to ports.

For onshore projects where transportation is a barrier, the analysts suggested segmented blades could offer a solution.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are exploring alternative transportation methods, such as carrying turbines through the air, to overcome logistical obstacles.

State of play

The most powerful offshore turbine currently announced is GE’s planned 12MW Haliade-X model. It is also the largest, with a rotor 220 metres in diameter.

When the manufacturer announced the upgrade in March, it stated that the turbine’s lower capital expenditure for balance of plant could help drive down LCOE.

Onshore, GE, Nordex, Vestas and German manufacturer Eno Energy have all announced 4MW-plus turbines.

Turbines with capacities beyond 5MW can be engineered through generator upgrades, increased gearbox torque ranges and optimising the unit’s control system, the analysts explained.