The first of the brand new 6 MW Siemens wind turbine with a 154 meter rotor diameter (SWT-6.0-154) just got certified as a viable product recently. And with that in hand, commercial installation of this unit began last week at the “Westermost Rough” Wind Farm” 6 km offshore of eastern England last week, in a shallow part of the North Sea. But, odds are, this bit of good news was overshadowed by any number of more prominent bad things that happened last week. And it even has a nifty marketing campaign associated with it, too - “Turbina Sapiens” - a new breed of turbine. But just because a $150 billion a year corporation has a new product to push, one that could help make the world a better place in a big way (and that seems to be a pretty rare thing these days, too), why should that matter? This is not bad news (except to the nuclear fission or natural gas based power industry), so it can’t get past the “if it bleeds it leads” theme filter for the month of August…
There are very few really big wind turbines that are “commercial”, though several have been made as proof of concept or “initial models”, waiting for someone to come along and order some. These are generally pretty expensive and can cost between $15 million to $25 million each when installed, or more if they are installed offshore. So, by these standards a million dollar Lamborgini sports car would be a bargain…. But unlike that fancy car that may well be compensation for inadequate sexual prowess, this product is all business, and big business, too. And there are literally many billions of dollars committed to this product (and a few billion in preliminary sales, too), so there is a lot riding on the initial installation and operation. Should this become the new industry standard, possible sales are way in excess of $100 billion for this puppy…
Of the 5 MW or more “club”, here are the more prominent members:
Enercon E-126 7.5 MW (land based)
Senvion 6.15 MW (126 and 152 meter rotor diameters) - formerly RE Power
Bard 5 MW (116 meter rotor)
Areva 5 MW (116 meter rotor)
Alstom 6MW x 150 meter rotor (Halaide)
Vestas-Mitsubishi 8 MW x 164 meter rotor
Gamesa G-128 x 5MW (land based)
Ming Yang 6 MW x 140 meter rotor diameter
Sinovel 5 and 6 MW x 128 meter rotor
XEMC-Darwind 5 MW x 115 meter rotor
CSIC-Haizhuang 5 MW (127 and 151 meter rotors)
Mitsubishi 7 MW x 165 meter rotor (Sea Angel)
Aerodyn 5 MW x 139 meter rotor
The Westermost Rough array will consist of 35 of these Siemens turbines, and it will set its owners (3 of them) back about 1 billion Euros. At present, Siemens has dominated the offshore wind market with it’s latest workhorse, the SWT-3.6-120 (also the model designated for the Cape Wind project in the USA). The new, bigger unit will attempt to bring more economies of scale and thus lower electricity production costs to its customers. And if it so happens to make greater profits, well, the folks at Siemens will be quite overjoyed, too.
The project uses 35 enormous monopoles (see http://www.offshorewind.biz/2014/05/27/geosea-installs-all-westermost-rough-foundations/) that will be (mostly have been) rammed into the seabed (sandbank) of the north sea. These weighed between 600 to 900 tons, and were 6.5 meters (over 21 feet) in diameters. The last foundation was installed in May of this year, and the substation was installed in June. The depth ranges between 10 to 25 meters (35 to 85 feet), and since this is close enough to the coast, an ultra-expensive HVDC converter station is not needed. The combined energy will be exported to the land via a single set of cables at 132,000 volts. Based on previous installations, the average power from this 210 MW capacity array should be more than 100 MW, as this is a very windy patch of ocean, with cold, nasty tides and prone to greater than hurricane force winds/mountainous waves, especially in the winter months.
Unlike most of the Siemens turbines, this unit is a “direct drive” low speed generator. It uses a permanent magnet generator, so the rotor does not need to be magnetized with a huge amount of current when the unit starts turning. The operating turning rate is between 5 to 11 rpm, so this generator has a great many “poles” - conventional generators usually have between 4 to 6 poles. Because of this design, the nacelle “only” weighs around 396 tons. The lighter weight lessens the loads on the on the towers, foundations and makes installation of these slightly less than epic task - though just slightly. The blades are 75 meter long single piece assemblies (246 feet) that get fitted onto the 4 meter diameter hub. These will experience tremendous forces/strains and stresses over their 25 or more year long lifetime. And while simulation tests have predicted a long and prosperous life for them, only tome will tell. If the blades have been poorly designed and/or manufactured, sales of this unit will tank and so will Siemens’ dreams of being a major factor in the offshore wind biz. A lot of the companies (or in the case of China, the government owned/controlled/ordered around corporations) won’t make it with their big turbine efforts - blade quality being a major factor.
And just how big will this market be? Well, at this site, you can get an indication of how many prospective projects are in the works. And while not all of them will get realized, a lot of them will:
http://www.thewindpower.net/services_en.php#windfarms. There are 924 projects with a combined capacity of 292 GW, which is worth $US 1.3 TRILLION at $4.5 billion per GW of capacity. Of that, about half of those monies will get spent on the turbine, though in the case of Siemens, they also make offshore substation components and the substations themselves, plus associated transmission components. About half of these offshore wind farm possibilities are in Europe, but 65.7 GW of projects are in the planning stage and 0.43 GW are now in the construction phase (Cape Wind). China has 63 GW of projects in the works, while only 16.4 GW worth are listed for India. That country may be the one to watch, as it has a huge coastline, relatively few decent wind areas onshore and 1.3 billion people who mostly want to get powered up. India does not have really awesome offshore winds as exist in the Straits of Taipei or the North Sea or the Gulf of Maine, but they are certainly better than the most of their onshore winds.
Oh well, back to the scandal du jour, some of which are really serious, and some that are superfluous and seem to be more like sleight of hand ruses that those ruling the roost want to use to keep most people distracted from the truly outrageous stuff. And of course, there are those cute animal pictures…. (from 8-16-14 “Naked Capitalism” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/) with hidden liberal messages (if cats and birds can live together, why can’t we.
Sort of like the “If Europe can deploy 6 MW offshore wind turbines (and at least 3 varieties, too - Siemens, Alstom and especially Senvion/REPower) why can’t the USA? Oh, that’s right, we COULD, we just can’t be bothered while our hydrocarbon owned and operated rulers try and figure out how to capture trillions of dollars in windfall profits (or much of any profits, apparently) from our remaining natural gas supplies….