GE Renewable Energy is due to start testing its next-generation Haliade-X turbine later this year and is making plans to manufacture it in Europe – and in China
GE Renewable Energy made a loss in Q2 2019 but the company’s chief executive says the business has “significant long-term potential,” not least from the Haliade-X offshore wind turbine it is developing, with the prototype approaching completion.
Announcing the company’s latest results, chief executive Jérôme Pécresse says GE Renewable Energy is making good progress on the Haliade-X offshore wind turbine and its Cypress onshore wind platform, which he describes as “our signature technology initiatives”.
Mr Pécresse highlights that the company has achieved numerous milestones associated with its plan to commercialise the Haliade-X by 2021. As he also notes, the quarter also saw Vattenfall announce plans to partner with GE to use the turbine in Europe.
Describing the company’s plan to join forces and work together with GE, Vattenfall senior vice president and head of wind Gunnar Groebler says, “As a leader of the wind industry, we are constantly striving for top-notch technology. Co-operation with GE Renewable Energy enables us to remain one step ahead in wind turbine technology developments. The size and performance of Haliade-X 12MW will help us further improve the competitiveness of offshore wind energy.” The companies plan to analyse specific projects in Vattenfall’s offshore wind pipeline for which the 12-MW turbine might be suited.
The nacelle for the first Haliade-X was unveiled in France in July 2019 and the 107-m blade for the prototype unit will be installed in the Netherlands later in 2019. GE Renewable Energy says the nacelle, which was revealed for the first time at a ceremony at its production facility in Saint-Nazaire, would soon be shipped from Saint-Nazaire to Rotterdam-Maasvlakte in the Netherlands, where the Haliade-X 12-MW prototype is being tested on land.
The initial phase of testing is designed to allow GE Renewable Energy to obtain the data required to receive type certification for the turbine – which it expects to do in 2020 – an important milestone on the way to commercialisation. A second Haliade-X 12-MW nacelle is also being assembled at Saint-Nazaire, prior to dispatch to the ORE Catapult test centre at Blyth in the UK. The nacelle will be tested under actual operational conditions to reduce the time required to confirm its performance levels and reliability.
Mr Pécresse says unveiling the nacelle for the Haliade-X was the start of a new phase in an ongoing commitment to the offshore wind turbine segment. “This project clearly reflects our ability to invest and innovate, supporting our customers in an ultra-competitive market in exponential growth.”
GE Renewable Energy offshore wind chief executive John Lavelle says, “We are on track to start commercialising this new product very shortly. Once we have received the type certificate, we will be ready to start mass production and send out the first commercial units by mid-2021.”
The tower sections for the turbine have already been shipped and are due to be installed at the Maasvlakte-Rotterdam in the Netherlands The four segments constructed at tower manufacturer GRI’s site in Seville, Spain arrived in the Netherlands in June. On arrival in Rotterdam pre-assembly work started, including installing some tower segments. After the nacelle and blade components arrive the prototype’s construction will be completed. The prototype is being installed onshore to provide easier access for testing. During the initial period of operation, it will allow GE Renewable Energy to collect data needed to obtain a type certificate, a key step to go into serial production in 2021.
Preparatory work for prototype testing at Port of Rotterdam got underway earlier this year, when Future Wind – a joint venture between Pondera Development and SIF Holding Netherlands – held a ground-breaking ceremony at the Maasvlakte.
By the end of 2019, GE Renewable Energy plans to have recruited more than 200 employees for the LM Wind Power blade factory in France where the blades for the Haliade-X are being manufactured. The Cherbourg factory recruited 120 employees in 2018 and will have more than 320 by the end of 2019. GE said 34% of those already employed are women. The company notes that 60 of the additional 200 people the company needs have already been recruited and have begun training at the factory’s Centre of Excellence. Opened in April 2018, the facility was the first wind turbine blade manufacturing site in France. It was used to manufacture the world’s first wind turbine blade that exceeds 100 m in length. The 107-m blade, LM 107.0 P, was completed earlier this year.
LM Wind Power site director Erwan Le Floch says a significant number of the employees at the site are from the Normandy region. “We are proud to take part in the region’s social and economic development, and we are happy to create more jobs in the surrounding community this year.”
GE Renewable Energy is also opening a factory and development centre in Guangdong province in China to serve the rapidly growing offshore wind market in China and the Asia Pacific region. The centre will undertake R&D activity and become GE’s regional offshore wind sales and project management office. The facility will be built in the Jieyang’s offshore wind cluster in Guangdong. Site construction is expected to begin at the end of this year and will be completed in 2021. Assembly production will begin in H2 2021.
Mr Lavelle says China is poised to become one of the largest offshore wind markets in the world. He notes that according to Guangdong’s Offshore Development Master Plan, 66 GW will come from the Guangdong region alone.
“Our new factory in Jieyang and the operation and development centre in Guangzhou will put us in a better position to meet customer needs in this fast-growing industry and help meet China’s growing offshore wind ambitions,” he says.
GE global growth markets president and chief executive Rachel Duan says, “As one of China’s strategic offshore wind development centres and a key growth region for GE in China, Guangdong is an ideal place to develop our offshore wind business.
“The agreements we signed today represent not only GE’s continued investment in China but also a significant milestone as we accelerate GE’s growth strategies in the market through the three pillars of ‘localisation, partnership and digital.’
“GE’s investments in Guangdong will bring together advanced manufacturing, operations and development, services and digital applications, together with relevant suppliers, to form an offshore wind business ecosystem that closely and effectively serves the needs of customers in China and the rest of Asia, while pushing forward China’s clean energy ambitions.”
The new factory in China will serve regional projects while the Saint-Nazaire assembly site in France – currently manufacturing the Haliade-X 12-MW prototype – will continue to serve all other international projects. The company’s Nantes office in France will continue to operate as GE’s global offshore wind headquarters.