From First To The Finest: The Evolution Of Wind Turbines - Proxima Solutions
the evolution of wind turbines

From First To The Finest: The Evolution Of Wind Turbines

Past-Present-Future


Only four years ago, the maximum capacity for wind turbines was 8MW. Now, just a few years later, this figure has doubled, as top wind energy companies have worked towards innovation in wind turbine design and have developed larger and more efficient ones. But what were turbines like a century ago? What do we know about that? The first ever turbine, known to produce electricity was built in 1887 in Scotland.

In 1888, the first known US wind turbine was created for electricity production in Ohio. After a century almost by 1900 approximately 2,500 windmills with a combined peak power capacity of 30 megawatts were being used across Denmark for mechanical purposes, such as grinding grains and pumping water.

The first known US wind turbine which was created for electricity production in Ohio. (1888)

A century later by 2000, in the US, almost 97 wind farms are online, providing enough power for up to 592,000 homes. US-installed wind power capacity goes up to 2,554 megawatts. The same year, an order for 1,800 Vestas wind turbine, the largest order in the world, was made by Spain’s Gamesa and the global wind power capacity reached 17,400 megawatts. Fast forward to 2010, global wind power capacity reaches 197,039 megawatts.

Fast forward to the present times, we have seen some of the greatest sustainable innovations made in wind turbine design and how they have drastically increased the wind power capacity around the world.

The capacity to produce more energy from a single turbine means fewer ones need to be built at each wind farm. This means a lower capital expenditure for companies and simplified operation and maintenance processes, increasing the accessibility and affordability of Renewables for both companies and end-users. The bigger turbines get, the more efficient they are – a fact that’s driven an increase in size from around 30 meters in the 1990s to almost 300m today.

So, as the race towards 20 MW turbines shows no sign of abating, here are the biggest models bringing the Renewable Energy industry closer to the milestone of optimizing production.

MySE 16.0-242 - Biggest wind turbine in the world

Ming Yang Smart Energy, a Chinese manufacturer, currently holds the record for the biggest wind turbine in the world. The MySE 16.0-242 is an offshore hybrid drive turbine. The diameter is 242 meters long with a wind turbine blade length of 118 meters. It has a 46,000-square-meter swept area that is equal to the size of almost two and a half NFL Football Fields. It is designed for high-wind IEC IB including typhoon-class IEC TC (this refers to the international standards published by the International Electrotechnical Commission regarding wind turbines) and has a nameplate capacity of 16MW.

The MySE 16.0-242 is said to have the industry’s largest rotor as well as the highest nominal rating. One turbine can generate up to 80,000 megawatt-hours of electricity over a year, which is enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes. By comparison, the company’s previous turbine model, the MySE 11.0-203, produces 45% less energy.

MySE16.0- 242 vs NFL football fields

It is designed to have a 25-year lifespan, throughout which it can eliminate over 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, compared to coal-fired power generation.

Full prototype rollout for the turbine is expected in 2022, which will then be followed by prototype installation in the first half of 2023 and commercial production in the first half of 2024. It takes the record for the biggest turbine from GE’s Haliade-X turbines, which are being built off the east coast of the United States.

The MySE 16.0-242 is the first of Ming Yang’s new 15 MW+ offshore product platform. The company’s goal is to develop a range of model variants that are adaptable to different offshore environments, from the constantly windy North Sea in Europe to the typhoon-prone South China Sea.

V236-15.0 MW Vestas wind turbine - designed for high wind conditions

Vestas’s V236-15.0 MW is capable of producing up to 80GWh every year, enough to power around 20,000 European homes, displacing more than 38,000 tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to removing 25,000 passenger vehicles off the road every year.

The turbine has a 43,743 square meter swept area, a nameplate capacity of 15MW, and a 25-year lifespan. Its rotor diameter measures 236m, its capacity factor is over 60% and it has 115.5m blades.

Stretching 280 meters into the air, the v236-15.0 mw draws on the Vestas EnVentus and 9MW platforms, using advanced system designs such as efficient geared drivetrain, their CubePower converter, and their Control System 8000.

Vestas designed the offshore turbine for high wind conditions, which is rated to withstand IEC 1 extreme wind conditions of up to 50m/s and IEC T up to 57m/s.

The offshore wind turbine is applicable globally and is said to offer 65% more energy per year than the previous Vestas v174-9.5 mw. For a 900MW wind farm, using the turbine would raise production by 5% whilst using 34 fewer turbines.

Comparison of wind turbines 1800-2025

In October 2021, Vestas announced that they would be installing the V236-15 MW prototype at the Østerild National test center for large wind turbines in Western Jutland, Denmark. The installation is scheduled for the second half of 2022 and its first kWh is expected for the last quarter of the same year.

During the initial operation period, Vestas will gather the necessary data to obtain a Type Certificate, a key step on the way to reaching serial production of the turbine planned for 2024.

SG 14-236 DD - Siemens Gamesa’s biggest wind turbine to date

Siemens Gamesa’s offshore model, SG 14-236 DD, has a nameplate capacity of up to 14 MW, and 15 MW with the Power Boost function. It has a rotor diameter of 236 meters, a swept area of 43,500 square meters, and its annual energy production is more than 30% higher than that of its predecessor, the SG 11.0-200 DD.

The turbine uses a new generation of the company’s offshore direct drive turbine technology, which uses fewer moving parts than geared turbines, leading to greater performance whilst maintaining wind turbine reliability.

SG 14-236 DD size comparison

Serial production for the SG 14-236 DD turbine is planned for 2024. In October 2021, Siemens Gamesa installed the nacelle for the smaller prototype version of the SG 14-236 DD turbine, the SG14-222 DD, at the test center in Østerild, Denmark. The SG14-222 has a 222m diameter rotor, a wind turbine blade length of 108m, a nameplate capacity of 14MW (15 MW with Power Boost), and a swept area of 39,000 square meters. The model is expected to be commercially available in 2024.

Siemens Gamesa has already signed preferred supplier agreements for the SG14-222 turbine to the 300 MW Hai Long 2 project in Taiwan and the 2.6 GW Dominion Energy Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) commercial project in the US.

GE Haliade-X 14 MW - the first wind turbine to operate at 14MW

In October 2021, GE Haliade - X 14 MW prototype started operation in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With this milestone, GE Renewable Energy has become the first company to operate a turbine at this power output.

The Haliade-X 14 MW is an upgraded version of the Haliade-X 13 MW, which received its type certification in January 2021. Certification measures have now officially been started for the newest model.

GE Haliade-X 14 MW - the first wind turbine to operate at 14MW

A single turbine can generate up to 74 GWh of energy every year, which saves up to 52,000mtp of CO2 – equivalent to removing 11,000 cars off the roads for a year. The GE Haliade-X 14 MW is also very efficient, with a capacity factor of 60-64%. It has a 220m rotor, a 107m blade, and can be as high as 260m. A single rotation of one of these turbines can generate enough electricity to power a UK household for two days.

Although the Haliade-X is best suited for medium to high wind speeds, its large capacity means it can produce electricity even at lower wind speeds, thus increasing profits and lowering the levelized cost of energy.

The Haliade-X 14 MW is set for its commercial debut at the Dogger Bank C offshore wind farm, located off England’s northeast coast, where GE Renewable Energy will provide 87 of its new models.

But the push for size comes with engineering challenges. Longer blades are more flexible than shorter ones, creating vibration which – if left uncontrolled – can affect performance and reduce the life of parts. The increased power generated puts greater load on the gearbox and transmission, and stronger support towers and foundations are required too.

"Environmental effects, noise, visual impacts and other community concerns all need to be considered, as with any large infrastructure project,” writes Doolan. “But wind turbines are one of the most cost-effective and technologically sophisticated forms of renewable energy, and as the developed world comes to grips with climate change, we will only see more of them."

But on the other hand, as the world continuously paces towards the drastic consequences of climate change, clean energy is one of the answers for a cleaner environment and for that the turbines must evolve and services companies should keep working for innovation in wind turbine using AI and predictive maintenance services for a better and efficient way towards sustainability and clean energy.

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