The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) led a research project to create the design, which it hopes will provide a reference to support the development of turbines up to 20MW without need for new technologies.
Its IEA 15-MW design — named for the International Energy Agency, which helped to coordinate collaboration between researchers worldwide — is already being used to study lightweight generators and floating support structure design and to compare wind turbine software, the NREL stated.
Evan Gaerter, a post-doctoral researcher at the NREL, explained: “We are releasing detailed documentation of the design as well as models to be used by different simulation and design packages — so if you have a particular technology you are interested in studying, then the entire turbine design is available to apply that to.”
The reference turbine has a hub height of 150 metres and rotor diameter of 240 metres. For comparison, GE’s 12MW Haliade-X, currently the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, has a hub height of 150 metres and rotor diameter of 220 metres.
Garrett Barter, a senior research engineer at the NREL, added: “Offshore wind turbines have been growing rapidly over recent years. They have eclipsed the current slate of reference turbines in terms of size and utility.
“So we needed a new reference turbine that leaps ahead of what the pilot of industry are rolling out today — but not so far ahead that we would need some sort of advanced technology to get there.”
Researchers from the Technological University of Denmark and University of Maine also contributed to the development of the reference turbine.
At the WindEnergy Hamburg conference in September 2018, senior director of blade manufacturer John Korsgaard argued there were no technological obstacles to manufacturing 20MW offshore turbines with 250-metre rotor diameters.
However, development would be dependent on overcoming transportation, installation challenges and it being cost-effective, he added.