GE Renewable Energy’s 12 MW offshore wind turbine will be nearly a third more powerful than its nearest competitor, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind's 9.5 MW unit, and puts it in pole position for upcoming projects in the US.
Announced last week, the Haliade-X 12 MW will be the largest offshore wind turbine in the world. With a rotor diameter of 220 m and 107 m blades it will have a capacity factor of 63%. That is a key differentiator and puts the Haliade-X five to seven percentage points ahead of the competition. As the company noted, every percentage point increase in capacity factor – the amount of energy a turbine can generate in a year at a given site compared to generating capacity when running at full power over the same period – is worth millions of dollars to its customers.
The 12 MW turbine will be able to generate 67 GWh annually, which is a 45% greater annual energy production than the most powerful machines on the market today, and twice as much as the Haliade 150-6MW, GE’s existing offshore turbine.
Never mind the benefits mentioned above, the 12 MW design will also play an important role, helping to continue to drive down the cost of offshore wind energy. It will enable developers to build windfarms with fewer turbines, less cabling, reduce construction, maintenance and other costs, and recoup their investment more quickly. In turn, that will help the company’s customers when they are bidding to build offshore windfarms at the lowest possible cost per kilowatt-hour.
Although it will be developed by GE at its facilities in France, the massive turbine from the US conglomerate will mean that the company is especially well-placed for future projects in the US. Block Island, the first offshore windfarm in the US, also uses turbines from GE. Should there one day be sufficient volume in the US market, it’s hard not to see states in the country elbowing one another out of the way to help it build a manufacturing facility in the US.
The company estimates that it will have a nacelle for demonstration in 2019 and will start shipping Haliade-X turbines by 2021, a timescale that could fit well with projects in the US and elsewhere.
How will MHI Vestas and Siemens respond? Respond they must, but so too must the offshore wind supply chain, where larger vessels and cranes – or new installation techniques – will be required. A 12 MW turbine will also make offshore windfarms that are much larger in terms of generating capacity than existing windfarms a reality, which will also require a new approach to financing and derisking them.