Clean Power Middelgrunden Wind Farm

Published on December 9th, 2011 | by Nicholas Brown


Upwind Study: 20 MW Wind Turbines are on the Horizon

December 9th, 2011 by  


Middelgrunden Wind Farm

Middelgrunden Wind Farm off Copenhagen.

Under Europe’s Upwind project, a feasibility study was conducted and it concluded that 20-MW (20,000-kW) wind turbines are likely by 2020. If you’re not familiar with wind turbine sizes, this is HUGE. The standard wind turbine these days is probably 3 to 5 MW, and the ‘tremendously large’ wind turbines companies like GE, Siemens, and Vestas are working on or offering are 6 to 10 MW.

Large-scale wind turbines produce electricity far more economically than small, residential turbines for multiple reasons, but the main one is the fact that the average wind speed at a given location usually increases with altitude.

While larger turbines are more expensive to build, transport, and install, the altitude-related benefits make the trouble and expense of installing large-scale turbines worth it, because they generate electricity the most cheaply (9 cents/kWh unsubsidized, in the United States, and assuming a capacity factor of 35%, according to the NREL).

Small wind turbines often fail to pay for themselves due to unacceptably slow wind speeds at altitudes of less than 20 feet, and these turbines often being less than 20 feet tall. And because they don’t generate much electricity, they have to be oversized in order to generate enough electricity to meet demand, and oversized turbines are costly.

The 20-MW turbines mentioned above will be 200 meters (656 feet) in diameter, which is 80 meters more than traditional 5-MW turbines, which are 120 meters (394 feet) in diameter. They would also be lighter and more flexible (for their size, of course).

Significant technological advancements will have to be made, and the current design will have to change. But wind turbine developers and researchers are working on it and are optimistic.

“Making a 20 MW wind turbine is not just upscaling today’s 5 MW machines. Nevertheless, we have already identified the necessary innovations in terms of design, materials and way the turbine is operated”, said Jos Beurskens of the Energy Research Centre Netherlands, who led the Upwind project.

As big as these turbines are, they do generate far more electricity per square foot of land they occupy than smaller turbines, so they actually occupy less space overall.

h/t | Photo Credit: Kim Hansen

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • Robbie Brady

    So badly written- was this an 11 year-old’s homework?

  • Elliott Heimel

    I wouldn’t be surprised if these gigantic Wind Turbines incorporate the Japanese “WindLens” Turbine Designs with the Inward Curving Ring around the Perimeter of the Turbine Blades to Increase the Focus of Airflow Speed through the Blade Zone by 2 to 3 Times. As a Bonus covering the outer blades with a Lens Shroud reduces the dreaded noise pollution.. — Thanks for allowing me to review your Article and make a comment.

  • Eltorovive

    Why not install a turbine upwind AND downwind on the same nacelle? This would make a 7mw almost into a 14mw wind turbine.
    Foundations (pile driven or floating) are a huge cost offshore. Take advantage and double the turbine power on one base.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a problem with a prop behind the tower. The blades travel through a wind shadow caused by the tower and put strain on the system. That blade goes quickly from being fully loaded with wind, to no wind, and back to heavy wind. Lots of system stress on blades and bearings.

      Some of the early turbine designs used aft-positioned blades and it wasn’t a good idea.

      • Eltorovive

        That’s what I thought too but there is a US company that makes 2-bladed, downwind turbines. Less stress with two blades and a simple wind directed nacelle plus easy to install.
        There is also is a floating version like this the Norwegians are already testing.
        So again, double up the turbines onto one nacelle base with contra-rotating blades to cancel torque. Maybe the downwind side of the nacelle is stretched away from the tower and the upwind turbine gets the usual 3 blades.
        That would look cool…

    • BasM

      The (energy of the) wind is taken away by the rotor upwind, so the contribution of the downwind rotor will be small (my rough estimation ~50%)

Back to Top ↑