Looking back on 2020 – Part 3: Turbine ratings and rotor sizes continue to go up

Even in a difficult year, manufacturers continued to launch new technology, with competition intensifying in the offshore and low-wind segments. Find out more in part three of Windpower Monthly's round-up

Prototype… Dongfang’s 10MW offshore turbine in China
Prototype… Dongfang’s 10MW offshore turbine in China

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The trend of increasingly powerful wind turbines ­— onshore and offshore — continued in 2020. However, manufacturers also unveiled new designs for low-wind regimes to make the best use of remaining sites in well-developed onshore markets where the space for higher wind sites is limited.

They further looked to new technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce costs and transportation difficulties.

Siemens Gamesa, Vestas and GE Renewable Energy all launched new 6MW onshore wind turbines this year, while Nordex stretched its Delta platform to 5.7MW. But it was Chinese manufacturer MingYang that unveiled the most powerful onshore turbine this year: a 6.25MW machine with a rotor diameter of 173 metres.

Meanwhile, Vestas racked up more than 1GW of orders for its EnVentus platform, which has a new standard power rating of 6MW. However, the Danish manufacturer was hit with a hefty blade repair bill after older turbines’ blades proved susceptible to “high-intensity” lightning strikes.

SGRE also targeted low-wind sites with a new 4-5MW turbine, while Goldwind told Windpower Monthly how it was prioritising larger rotors — for low-wind offshore sites — over higher ratings to reduce costs.
Enercon installed its first low-wind E-138 EP3 E2 prototype and Vestas received its first order for turbines designed for China’s low-wind sites.

Offshore, Siemens Gamesa launched a new 14MW turbine and grew its rotor diameters to 222 metres, while GE stretched its Haliade-X platform to 14MW. The first Chinese manufacturers joined the double-digit-MW range in 2020, with MingYang unveiling an 11MW turbine and Dongfang launching a 10MW machine.

Vestas will not be far behind, with a new offshore wind platform — scaled up from the current MHI Vestas platform, which has power ratings up to 10MW — due to be unveiled soon. The Danish OEM bought out Mitsubishi Heavy Industries from the offshore joint venture the two companies set up in 2014.

Manufacturers announced a number of new research and development projects to aid turbine production and installation.

GE detailed plans to develop turbines with 3D-printed concrete towers to reduce costs and transportation bottlenecks, and its subsidiary LM Wind Power joined a consortium of researchers and wind power companies aiming to develop and produce the world’s first completely recyclable blade.

Meanwhile, Vestas began using a new tool to stabilise blades without the use of handheld taglines.
Kite-based power systems manufacturer Makani reached the end of the road — or flight path — in 2020 as it was dropped from Google parent company Alphabet’s technology investment platform X.

Looking back on 2020 – Part 1: How the wind industry defied global pandemic

Looking back on 2020 – Part 2: Losses mount as Covid adds to sector’s woes

Looking back on 2020 – Part 4: As people stay home, oil and gas majors go green

Looking back on 2020 – Part 5: Politicians pledge green post-Covid recovery

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