There are several key technological advancements that support continued and strong wind power growth. In particular, scaling of the standard wind turbine design - increasing the average turbine nameplate capacity, hub height, and rotor diameter - will allow significant increases in wind power at lower cost per kWh. This is a trend that has occurred throughout the past decade. For example, the average nameplate capacity of newly installed turbines in 2013 was 1.87 megawatts (MW), up 162% since 1999. The average hub height of turbines installed in 2013 was 80 meters, up 45% from 1999 with associated increase in rotor diameter. That trend has accelerated over the last few years, with the largest onshore wind turbine being the Enercon E-126 turbine with a 7.6 MW capacity and 126-meter rotor diameter. In late 2018 GE Renewable Energy installed a prototype in the Netherlands of its 5.3 MW Cypress turbine
. Although not the largest in the world, the Cypress turbine has a 158-meter rotor diameter with a revolutionary two-piece blade design that allows larger turbines with longer blade lengths to be transported to locations that were previously inaccessible. The turbine began generating power in February 2019, and GE Renewable Energy hopes to begin delivering the first Cypress turbines to customers by the end of the year.
Offshore wind turbines have grown even larger as they are less constrained by transportation limitations, noise concerns, view-sight issues, and land restrictions. The largest and most powerful wind turbines commercially installed now at 8.8 MW rated capacity. The first (of two) of this size turbine, produced by MHI Vestas, was installed at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the coast of North East Scotland in April 2018. It is 191 meters tall with a 160 meter rotor diameter. Such larger turbines generate more electricity per unit by both capturing larger wind flow and accessing stronger, more consistent winds at higher altitudes.
Even bigger turbines are coming soon. In June 2018 Vestas announced that its flagship V164 9.5 MW offshore wind turbine
received final certification and should be available for installation in late 2019. Just a few months later, in September 2018, Vestas launched its V164 10.0 MW turbine
. It has a rotor diameter of 164 meters and height of 187 meters, and it could be ready to ship as early as 2021. Competing in this new double-digit capacity size, GE Renewable Energy's next generation turbine, the 12 MW Haliade-X
, which measures 260 meters in height with a a 220-meter rotor diameter, is expected to be demonstrated in 2019 with first shipments also as early as 2021. In addition to being the biggest offshore wind turbine, GE is marketing the Haliade-X as the most efficient wind turbine available with a capacity factor five to seven percentage points above industry standard.
Such increases have allowed wind projects to be cost-effective in regions with lower wind speed than traditionally required. In higher wind speed regions, the larger turbines have increased capacity factors, effectively reducing the cost of wind generated power.
For more information, see OWOE: What are the key technology advances impacting wind energy production?