GE Renewable Energy is to spend US$400M developing a massive turbine that will reduce the cost of energy from offshore wind significantly
Offshore wind turbines have been growing incrementally for several years, but a new turbine being developed by GE Renewable Energy is an order of magnitude larger than its competitors and will reduce costs and drive up profits significantly.
The company released details of the turbine, the Haliade-X – which will be a 12 MW unit – at the end of February and said it is already in talks with developers in Europe and the US about using the massive turbine.
For the time being the largest offshore wind turbine will continue to be MHI Vestas Offshore Wind’s V164-9.5 MW, but the GE turbine will be significantly more powerful than that particular unit. Siemens Gamesa’s SG 8.0-167 DD, the next most powerful, has a rotor diameter of 167 m with B82 blades nearly 82 m in length allowing an 18% larger swept area and up to 20% higher annual energy production than its predecessor SWT-7.0-154.
With GE’s unexpected February announcement of the Haliade-X, ever-larger turbines look set to play a growing role reducing the cost of energy from offshore wind. Using a much larger turbine such as the Haliade-X will enable developers to build windfarms with fewer turbines, less cabling, reduce construction, maintenance and other costs, and recoup their investment more quickly. In turn, that will help the company’s customers when they are bidding to build offshore windfarms at the lowest possible cost per kilowatt-hour.
Although it will be developed by GE at its facilities in France, the massive turbine from the US conglomerate will mean the company is especially well-placed for future projects in the US. Block Island, the first offshore windfarm in the US, also uses turbines from GE. Should there one day be sufficient volume in the US market, it’s possible GE might want to build a manufacturing facility for the Haliade X in the US. The company estimates it will have a nacelle for demonstration in 2019 and will start shipping Haliade-X turbines by 2021, a timescale that could fit well with projects in the US and elsewhere.
How will MHI Vestas and Siemens respond? At the time of writing, neither company had responded to GE’s announcement, but both undoubtedly have their own development programmes under way. Respond they must, but so too must the offshore wind supply chain, where larger vessels and cranes – or new installation techniques – will be required. A 12 MW turbine will also make offshore windfarms much larger in terms of generating capacity than existing windfarms a reality, which will require a new approach to financing and de-risking them.
The 12 MW turbine that GE is developing will have a rotor diameter of 220 m, 107 m blades designed by LM Wind Power, and what the company called “digital capabilities.” GE said the Haliade-X 12 MW will have a capacity factor of 63% and noted that the combination of a larger rotor, longer blades and higher capacity factor will make the Haliade-X less sensitive to wind speed variations, increasing predictability and the ability to generate power at low wind speeds. Although the Haliade-X 12 MW turbine will be well-suited to high-to-medium wind speeds, its larger capacity will enable it to produce more energy than other turbines even at low wind speeds, increasing profits and significantly lowering the levelised cost of energy
The 12 MW turbine will be able to generate 67 GWh annually, a 45% greater annual energy production than the most powerful machines on the market, and twice as much as GE’s existing offshore turbine, the Haliade 150-6MW. Putting its capability into context, the Haliade-X 12 MW will be able to generate enough clean power to supply 16,000 European households in wind conditions on a typical North Sea site.
However, the Haliade-X 12 MW doesn’t just set a new benchmark for the size of offshore wind turbines at sea. It will also enhance the bottom line and profitability for customers. GE said the new turbine will provide significant manufacturing cost savings to complement cost savings achieved by reducing windfarm installation time using the new turbine. Servicing and repair costs will also be lower thanks to “simplified process and intelligent components.” The new turbine won’t only help developers reduce capital expenditure: with fewer turbines and foundations to install, in addition to reduced cycle times and simplified operation, the Haliade-X 12 MW should also generate significant project cost savings over the lifetime of a windfarm. GE believes these could amount to an average of US$26M per turbine per 100 MW when compared to Haliade 150-6MW.
The company is to test the Haliade-X offshore wind turbine at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s facilities in the UK, bringing potential supply chain benefits in the process. Under the terms of a five-year research and development programme, the company will test next-generation technology for the Haliade-X and the turbine will undergo testing and demonstration programmes at the facility that will accurately replicate real-world operational conditions.
In what is undoubtedly a coup for the UK offshore wind industry, testing will take place at ORE Catapult’s 15 MW power train test facility in Blyth, Northumberland. Research and development activity there will include cooling technologies, converters, loading conditions across mechanical and electrical components, grid testing and design validation. The collaboration will drive technology improvements that will also help to develop the UK supply chain and increase access to demonstration opportunities for innovative small businesses.
GE’s president and chief executive for offshore wind, John Lavelle, said of the decision to test the new turbine in the UK, “This is an important agreement because it will enable us to prove Haliade-X in a faster way by putting it under controlled and extreme conditions. Traditional testing methods rely on local wind conditions and therefore have limited repeatability for testing. By using ORE Catapult’s facilities and expertise, we will be in a better position to adapt our technology in a shortened time, reduce unplanned maintenance, increase availability and power output, while introducing new features to meet customers’ demands.”
In addition to the R&D activities, the agreement also includes a £6M (US$8.5M) combined investment with Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund to install the world’s largest and most powerful grid emulation system at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.
Supplied by GE Power, Grid Emulation, in conjunction with the Catapult’s power train test facilities, will enable the partners, UK companies and researchers to better assess the interaction between the next generation of large-scale wind turbines and the electrical distribution network in the most challenging environments.
ORE Catapult engineers will deliver independent performance, functionality, endurance and accelerated life testing of components, sub-assemblies, sub-systems and full systems including the generator and converter, recreating extreme conditions in a controlled environment. The test stand will improve understanding of turbine performance, identifying manufacturing and design issues in a relatively short time period compared to field tests. Ultimately, it will reduce time to market, improve reliability and mitigate the associated costs and risks of deployment.
ORE Catapult’s testing capability replicates the effects of the wind and includes dynamic torque, axial and radial force and bending moment application to emulate operational conditions. Unbalanced rotor, brake emulations, condition monitoring and control system validation tests can also be conducted.