Wind energy is going from strength to strength as onshore and offshore innovations are becoming more commonplace with Europe and other major world powers betting big on the future of renewables.
Danish wind turbine company Vestas is planning to revolutionize the face of Denmark’s wind production through its new 15-megawatt offshore wind turbine measuring 280 meters tall, with its blades spanning an astounding 115.5 meters.
Vestas is planning for a prototype of the new turbine to be situated onshore, to ensure it can be easily accessed to carry out function tests, as soon as the second half of 2022 to become operational before the end of 2022.
Wind output from the turbine is expected to total 80 gigawatts hours a year, enough to power around 20,000 households, with Vestas boasting that it “will be the tallest and most powerful wind turbine in the world once installed.”
Establishing new wind farms using larger turbines means that fewer turbines need to be built to generate the same amount of power, implying lower maintenance and operational costs.
Denmark is continuing to also lead the way in offshore wind and renewable energy, with 30 percent of the country’s power already coming from renewable sources. Denmark was an early player in wind energy, establishing its first wind turbine in 1979 and going on to establish major offshore wind farms in 2002, 2009, and 2019.
But Vestas isn’t the only company trying to up its wind energy game. Just this August, China’s MingYang Smart Energy announced it would be inaugurating a 264-meter offshore wind turbine prototype in 2023, with the aim of launching the finished product in 2024. MingYang equally hopes to produce 80-gigawatt hours a year of wind power.
MingYang is hoping to claim its stake in European wind before there is no room left. The company is set to establish a major manufacturing facility in Germany to produce its wind turbines, building the first Chinese wind plant in the region. It’s not surprising Chinese companies are vying for their piece of the pie with the offshore wind sector expected to grow more than tenfold within the next decade and a half.
In May this year, GE announced it would complete “the world’s largest offshore wind farm” made up of GE Renewable Energy’s 14-megawatt Haliade-X turbines. Siemens Gamesa is trialing a similar product, having sent its SG 14-222 DD prototype nacelle to Denmark for the testing phase, with hopes for its commercial model to follow in 2024.
Aurélie Nasse, head of offshore product market strategy at Vestas, suggests that while new innovations in wind are plentiful, the energy sector needs supporting industries to keep up if it hopes to be successful. "We need to make sure it's a sustainable race for everyone in the industry, she stated, expressing the need for larger harbors, as well the equipment and installation vessels required to transport the huge turbine parts and construct them offshore.
Yet it seems that with major world powers and international organizations all pushing for greener policy and the shift to carbon-neutral by 2050, companies are willing to invest heavily in wind even if the pay-out is not currently optimistic. "If you look at the financial results of the [manufacturers], basically none of us make money anymore," "That's a big risk."
And beyond the idea of bigger is better, various players have major plans for the future of wind power. For example, Vestas hopes to produce fully recyclable wind turbine blades using epoxy resin by 2030, in support of its zero-waste strategy, an improvement from its 55 percent recyclability aim. This comes alongside an announcement by Siemens Gamesa that it will produce fully recyclable offshore wind turbine blades.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes offshore wind could power every British home by as early as 2030, with aims to become the “world leader in low-cost clean power generation.” This would mean an increase in the previous output target of 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts. Johnson has pledged an investment of $207.46 million in ports and factories for the manufacturing of the “next generation of turbines”, expecting to generate as many as 60,000 jobs.
While various companies and governments around the world invest in the future of wind, with new innovations and optimistic targets for the next decade, two countries appear to be leading the battle – the U.K. and Denmark. This has become increasingly evident as the two countries compete to build the first energy island, to be run on entirely renewable power.
So, as Denmark and the U.K. lead the world in wind energy, with other European powers trailing closely behind and China looking to get in on the action, Europe is set to surpass its renewable energy aims if private investment and government backing for onshore and offshore wind continues at its current rate.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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