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Energy Efficiency UpWind european wind power project develops 20 MW wind turbine

Published on April 19th, 2011 | by Tina Casey

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Europe’s UpWind Project Cuts Loose with Gigantic 20 MW Wind Turbine

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April 19th, 2011 by  

UpWind european wind power project develops 20 MW wind turbineEurope’s UpWind project is delivering on its promise of developing a 20 MW (megawatt) wind turbine, using only current technology and materials. The largest wind turbines in use today are only about 6-10 MW, so the 20 MW Upwind turbine — conceived as a offshore installation located in the North Sea — represents a quantum leap forward for grid-connected wind power.

Obstacles to a 20 MW Wind Turbine

In a North Sea location, a single wind turbine could power up to 20,000 homes, more than enough to provide all the residential energy use of many small towns and cities. The big sticking point is money. Given the goal of using only current technology, UpWind researchers found that a 20 MW wind turbine would be up to 20 percent more expensive than the smaller turbines in use today.

Solutions for a 20 MW Wind Turbine

The UpWind collaboration includes about 40 private an public sector partners, and the resulting solution (piloted by the Technical University of Denmark) is a “smart” turbine blade with an edge that acts like the flaps on airplane wings. It moves up and down to adjust to turbulence, reducing fatigue and preventing extreme loads from interfering with the efficiency of the turbine. Instead of using anemometers to measure wind speed at individual points, DTU adapted a laser-based technology used in research, that can measure wind speed over distance. The next step is to adapt the laser measuring system, called LIDAR, to fit in the hub of the turbine.

What Good is a 20 MW Wind Turbine?

The U.S. wind industry has had to adapt quickly to emerging issues such as noise, aesthetics, and impacts on wildlife (to say nothing of political issues), and at first glance it would seem that a 20 megawatt turbine would add to the headaches. However, a super-large turbine could actually resolve some of these conflicts by opening up the opportunity to install more megawatts at appropriate sites where these issues are not in play, for example in brownfields and other remote sites that are inhospitable to wildlife due to previous development.

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Image: Giant wind turbines by clogzm

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    “Think Big” is the philosophy of Americans. With advances in Wind Turbine Technology machines are increasing in size. Will there be a limit for size?

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

    • Anonymous

      Well, this is a European project – this enormous 20MW turbine. Think they stole our philosophy?

      Sometimes big is beautiful….

  • Jon K

    I thought the big issue with wind is distribution. Wasn’t it here that I read some huge amount of wind power is dumped every year. I think the power guys use the word “curtailed” for power they have but can’t use because they can’t get it to where it’s needed.

    • Anonymous

      In general curtailment is a temporary issue. Sometimes turbine installation gets ahead of transmission installation. China built an entire ‘stranded’ wind farm. They got the farm ready to go long before they were able to hook it up to their grid.

      That said, there will be some farms where it does not make sense to build transmission for 100% of the power produced. If a farm hits full output only a small percentage of the year it might be cheaper just to ‘toss’ that extra little bit on the few times it is produced than to spend extra for larger wire.

      • jeffhre

        Imagine if every utility scale turbine today was replaced with a 20 MW turbine. There would be more energy produced, in less area with thousands of fewer turbines, which would be spaced much farther apart.

        The lowering land use intensity alone would reduce many problems, as well as leaving more open land to enjoy. This is a great direction to move towards for both land and sea based turbines.

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