Latest giant wind turbine could power 3,200 homes

Source: John Roach, NBC NEWS • Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012

Vestas has increased the capacity of its giant offshore wind turbine to 8 megawatts.


Vestas has increased the capacity of its giant offshore wind turbine to 8 megawatts.

Wind energy company Vestas had planned on building a 7-megawatt giant offshore turbine, but has decided to up it to 8 megawatts, in a bid to lower costs and secure buyers.

The boost, the company said, has been a possibility since they started work on the V164 platform in March 2011.

“Progress in the technology development has now shown that an 8 MW version will offer lower cost of energy and at the same time keep the reliability and structural integrity of the turbine unchanged,” Vestas said in a press release.

The increased power output per turbine reduces the number of power plants in any given offshore wind farm to erect and maintain. Since the general rule of thumb is that 400 homes can be powered by each megawatt in an offshore wind farm, each of the Vestas turbines will power not 2,800 homes but 3,200.

The company started work on the turbine primarily to service planned offshore wind farms in the rough conditions of the North Sea. In June of this year, Vestas stopped work on a manufacturing plant to build the turbines outside of London due to a lack of buyers, Earth Techling noted.

Development for the turbine, however, continues. A mold for the 262-foot blade is ready at a Vestas test facility on the Isle of Wight and construction of a test blade will begin by year end.

The key for Vestas and other players in the offshore wind industry will be to bring down costs of the technology, which, as pointed out by the New York Times on Wednesday, is desirable because of its “not in my backyard” attributes:

At present, exploiting offshore wind to generate electricity is twice as expensive as using onshore wind and far more expensive than using fossil fuels, analysts say

“Offshore wind is inherently expensive because it is offshore,” said Dieter Helm, a professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford. “The main reason we are building offshore wind is because people don’t like onshore wind.”

By building bigger, and thus fewer, turbines, Vestas believes it can lower the cost of the technology, which has the benefit of no carbon emissions while generating energy.

The ploy makes economic sense, but the sales pitch, going not to 7 but to 8 megawatts, calls to mind Nigel in the movie “This is Spinal Tap” when he shows off his amplifier that “goes up to 11.”

“It is one louder, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s not 10.”