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OWOE - Wind Power - What are the key technology advances impacting wind energy production?
  Figure 1 - Plot of Average Nameplate Capacity, Hub Height, and Rotor Diameter (Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)
 
Figure 1 - Plot of Average Nameplate Capacity, Hub Height, and Rotor Diameter (Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)
 
Figure 2 - Yearly installed average capacity of offshore wind turbines (WindEurope)
 
Figure 3 - Growth in size of typical commercial wind turbines (IPCC)
 
What are the key technology advances impacting wind energy production?

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. (See Figure 1.)

If we look at offshore turbines on their own, which tend to be larger than onshore turbines as they are less constrained by transportation limitations, noise concerns, view-sight issues, and land restrictions, average rated capacity increased from 3 MW in 2010 to almost 7 MW in 2018. (See Figure 2.) The largest and most powerful wind turbines commercially installed are 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. These larger turbines generate more electricity per unit by both capturing larger wind flow and accessing stronger, more consistent winds at higher altitudes.

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.

This trend is expected to continue, further increasing the competitiveness of wind power. Coupled with reduced equipment and installation costs, an expanding transmission infrastructure, and the drive from fossil fuel to renewable energy, wind power is expected to continue to expand its share of US electrical power generation. Figure 3 illustrates the growth over time of wind turbines and projects that into the future.


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