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The wind turbines of the future: bigger and more powerful

The wind turbines of the future: bigger and more powerful

Onshore and offshore wind turbines are on the rise at a steady rate. This technology is growing by leaps and bounds in both size and power.

"It's actually a gradual change on the ground because markets are moving from 3 to 4 megawatts," said MAKE's technology consultant and lead author of a report,Shashi Barla. "However, the sizes of the offshore turbines are much larger."

Offshore turbines are evolving from 6 to 7 megawatts. But Barla explained that the turbines of the next generation will make a qualitative leap reaching a power between 12 and 15 megawatts with rotors of 200 to 260 meters. "It is an unprecedented size," he said. General Electrics has already announced its 12 megawatt Haliade-X model. Other manufacturers likeSiemens Gamesa YVestas they will probably release their own models as well.

At the same time, Barla said, "product life cycles are getting shorter," with larger machines coming to market more quickly. But how fast the turbines grow will largely depend on regional markets.

In the US, that means 2 megawatt and 3 megawatt machines will remain the norm in onshore projects through 2020, each of which will account for a quarter of new product introductions through 2022.

With the gradual reduction of the Production Tax Credit, manufacturers will move to 4 megawatt turbines to improve the economics of the project.

The European market already favors slightly larger turbines due to terrain limitations. But the region will also see a transition to higher-powered turbines as incentives and auctions end and commercial market power purchase agreements favor larger equipment with lower energy costs. "You are no longer competing with subsidies," Barla said.

The adoption of larger capacity turbines will take longer in countries like China and India in the APAC market. Barla said this year's auctions in China will propel it toward 3-megawatt turbines with large rotors, while India will transition over the next three to four years. APAC's market will be the largest in capacity, at 186.1 gigawatts. But until the end of 2023, MAKE expects 2-megawatt turbines to dominate.

Europe will have greater confidence in large turbines with 3- and 4-megawatt models that will constitute almost 100% of the market by the end of 2023.

MAKE forecasts that the EMEARC market, which includes Europe and its advanced wind market, will be the only place where 5-megawatt turbines will have a notable impact, accounting for 38% of new products through 2022.

In the offshore segment, demand from the US is improving, but technological innovation in Europe will drive development in that market, as well as in Asia and the Pacific. Europe's more mature market is seeing faster development of turbines that will exceed the 6-8 megawatt threshold and even exceed 10 megawatts after 2020.

"The United States can avoid this change," Barla said. "Whether it is current or future offshore technology, it will come mainly from the European market." Siemens Gamesa, Vestas and GE will continue to build 2 megawatt machines for use in the US and India.

MAKE highlights that Vestas will increase production and expand its 3- and 4-megawatt turbine supply chain in time with the longest PTC cycle in the US and to gain an edge on growth after 2020. And in all regions, Barla said that Siemens Gamesa, GE and Vestas "will be well positioned for future growth."

With information from:

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