Wind turbines breaking records
22 October 2013, Nuclear, Solar, Wind
Details of current and future offshore wind turbine models may be found in Datamonitor's Offshore Wind Turbine Database (October 2013, EN00061-003). The forward-looking guide to offshore wind turbine manufacturers' developments, commercial timelines, and European orders up to 2017 paints a clear picture of technological change and market progression in the offshore wind industry.
The average capacity of offshore wind turbines installed in Europe before 2013 was around 3.5MW, while orders of turbines for 2013 to 2016 average around 5.9MW. This rapid change in choice of wind turbine models will result in significant changes to manufacturers' market shares in Europe, with some new entrants to the offshore wind market winning sizable orders for large-scale models, as detailed in Datamonitor's Offshore Wind Turbines: European Market Shares 2013 (September 2013, EN00037-085).
Offshore wind turbines are scaling up as technological developments are allowing longer blades and lighter, more reliable generating units to be built. Levelized costs of generation should be reduced through the use of increased unit capacities that require fewer grid connections and lower maintenance, but as offshore wind projects move further offshore and into deeper waters, the actual costs have been rising and, as government support is reduced, the industry is facing significant obstacles to profitability.
The Samsung Heavy Industry S7.0-171 offshore wind turbine is currently being installed for testing off the coast of Fife in Scotland. With a rotor diameter a little in excess of 171m and reaching nearly 200m high, the 7MW wind turbine will be the largest operational model in the world. It is expected to be commercially available in 2015, when turbines as large as the AMSC Sea Titan 10MW model will also be close to operational status.
With designs for up to 200m rotor diameters and unit capacities of up to 15MW, conventional three-bladed horizontal axis turbines are likely to continue to scale up as far as weight-saving designs allow. However, vertical axis turbines may offer the advantage of being able to support longer blades with a lower center of gravity, which could prove competitive as floating platforms begin to become more mainstream after 2018.
Low weight technologies such as permanent magnet direct drive turbines, slim blades, two-bladed turbines, floating arrays, and concepts such as sky-sails and sterling accelerators all provide potentially viable alternatives to present day offshore wind turbines, while costs and reliability will also play an important role in determining dominant designs.
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