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Next-Generation Onshore & Offshore Wind Turbines Being Driven By Increased Competition

Seeking a competitive edge in renewable energy auctions around the world, manufacturers of both onshore and offshore wind turbines are having to increase the pace of innovation, driving “unprecedented growth” of the next-generation of onshore and offshore wind turbine sizes, according to new research from MAKE Consulting. 

Seeking a competitive edge in renewable energy auctions around the world, manufacturers of both onshore and offshore wind turbines are having to increase the pace of innovation, driving “unprecedented growth” of the next-generation of onshore and offshore wind turbine sizes, according to new research from MAKE Consulting.

GE Renewable Energy’s 12 MW Haliade-X offshore wind turbine

According to recent research from Shashi Brala, Senior Analyst at MAKE Consulting, now a Wood Mackenzie entity along with GTM Research, competition is forcing wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to intensify the pace of innovation in an effort to lower the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCoE) needed to compete in renewable energy auctions around the world. As a result, the next-generation of wind turbines are being brought ever nearer to reality, such as 4 to 5 megawatt (MW) onshore wind turbine models with 160- to 175-meter rotors, and offshore models with capacities of 12 to 15 MW and rotors in excess of 200 to 250 meters.

We’ve especially seen this play out in the offshore wind energy market, of late, with the recent news that MHI Vestas’ 9.5 MW wind turbine has moved a step closer to commercial installation, and the announcement in March made by GE Renewable Energy unveiling its mammoth 12 MW Haliade-X offshore wind turbine, which measures in at 260 meters in height and boasting a 220-meter rotor.

According to Shashi Barla, “The competitive landscape, namely the transition in many markets globally to auction systems, results in shorter commercial life cycles of turbine platforms. OEM business plans and CAPEX investment must incorporate shorter platform/product lifecycle assumptions, with higher volumes offered in auctions offsetting those investments.”

Each region is reliant upon specific types of wind turbines to match the wind resources available: China and India rely on 2 to 2.5 MW wind turbines with power ratings designed for ultra-low wind speeds, whereas the US is dominated by high capacity factor turbines.

Another aspect of the innovation and development of larger wind turbine models is the logistics and transportation necessary to get the turbine from point A to point B. Specifically, larger rotors need specific transport options, and there are currently two parallel development tracks working to solve this — cost-effective single-piece technology, and split blades for logistically-challenged sites.

The logistical challenges that face onshore sites are less of an issue out to sea, and offshore projects make use of the ability to build their supply chain closer to seaports. Recent zero-subsidy auction bids by offshore wind developers are helping push offshore wind turbine innovation, and like the Haliade-X, we will soon see more 12 MW offshore wind turbines, and soon after 15 MW turbines.

 
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