GE launches 5.3 MW onshore wind turbine; Floating wind study calls for 'urgent' port spending

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GE launches 5.3 MW onshore wind turbine with efficiency, logistics gains

GE Renewable Energy is to release a new 5.3 MW onshore wind turbine which includes improvements in energy output, installation, and maintenance efficiency compared with earlier models, the company announced September 24.

Larger, higher efficiency turbines and growing installation experience have dramatically reduced wind power costs. GE's 5.3-158 turbine design uses the company's new Cypress wind turbine platform and increases annual energy production (AEP) by up to 50% compared with GE's 3 MW turbines, it said.

The capacity of the new design is over twice the average capacity of newly installed turbines in the U.S. in 2017, measured at 2.32 MW according to the Department of Energy's latest Wind Technologies Market Report.

The Cypress system incorporates learnings from GE's 2 MW and 3 MW models, which represent an installed capacity of 20 GW. A prototype 4.8 MW model is currently under production in Germany and is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The Cyprus platform uses a two-piece carbon blade design, enabling longer blades and improving logistics, according to the company. Logistics and installation costs will become a greater driver of wind costs as turbine sizes rise and they are installed in increasingly-remote locations.

Blade assembly can be performed on site, reducing the costs for permitting equipment and roadwork required for transporting longer blades, GE said. The blade tips are also designed to offer greater flexibility according to wind conditions and site requirements.

The Cypress platform is "designed to scale over time, enabling GE to offer a wider array of power ratings and hub heights to meet customer needs throughout the 5 MW range," the company said.

Operations and maintenance (O&M) innovations include enhancements to optimize up-tower repairs, more robust manufacturing processes, and increased systems-level hardware testing.

"This combination of planned, condition-based and predictive services will help to ensure more reliability, uptime and production while ultimately lowering lifecycle costs for the customer," the company said.

Earlier this year, GE Renewable Energy launched the world's largest offshore wind turbine, the 12 MW Haliade-X.

GE was the fourth-largest global turbine supplier in 2017, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

                   Top global turbine manufacturers in 2017 

                                                  (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)

Virginia could lead US offshore buildout, study says

The U.S. state of Virginia could build on existing coastal infrastructure to become a national leader in the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry within the next decade, BVG Associates consultancy said in a report published September 19.

Virginia could provide services and equipment to offshore wind projects further up the U.S. coast in the coming years and build 2 GW of offshore wind capacity in its own waters by 2028, BVG said.

According to the report, Virginia has five main competitive advantages:

-- Industrial coastal infrastructure with large areas for laydown and storage, adequate quayside length for load-out, and direct access to the open ocean.
-- A large skilled and experienced workforce in shipbuilding, vessel operations and logistics.
-- Highway, rail, and inland waterway connections linking Virginia’s ports to industrial centers throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest.
-- Nearby population centers with growing electricity demand, including an internet corridor in Northern Virginia.
-- High-voltage interconnection capability in Virginia Beach, which would require only moderate investment to accommodate all anticipated local offshore capacity.

Virginia hosts more than 28,000 full-time jobs in shipbuilding and ship repair, more than New York and all New England states combined.

In the short to medium term, the coastal Hampton Roads area could be upgraded to build and assemble jacket foundations and offshore substation platforms, BVG said.

"Two sites could be upgraded in 20-29 months, at a cost of $5 to $15 million, ready for investment by a steel fabricator," the report said.

"Jacket and substation production in Hampton Roads could create more than 2,000 new direct and indirect jobs," it said.

In August, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) commissioned BVG to identify ways to unlock Virginia's offshore wind potential.

“This report is an important step in recognizing the path to developing offshore wind in the Commonwealth and the benefits it can unlock," John Warren, Director of Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, said.

"This administration is committed to developing more renewable energy and sees offshore wind as important part of Virginia’s energy future,” he said.

Several U.S. states plan to develop an offshore wind industry and Virginia "must act now to be a leader in offshore wind," BVG said in its report.

Europe floating wind study calls for 'urgent' port investments

Limitations of Europe's port infrastructure and insufficient vessel capacity could inflate the cost of floating offshore wind projects, a new study commissioned for the UK's Carbon Trust has reportedly said.

Only a few ports in Scotland, Norway and Spain are currently suitable for the development and operation of floating offshore wind farms, the study by LOC Renewables, WavEC and Cathie Associates, said.

Quayside construction of large-scale floating wind farms requires ports to have large areas for component set down and production lines, and an area for wet storage of assembled units, the report said.

Without a plan to develop a network of equipped ports, floating offshore projects could suffer higher costs and longer project lead times, it warned.

An estimated 80% of offshore wind resources are in water depths of over 60 meters, where fixed bottom designs are not suitable. This equates to 4 TW of offshore capacity exclusively available to floating projects, according to industry group WindEurope.

“As the industry develops the necessary technologies to make floating offshore wind commercially viable, there is an urgent need for investment in port infrastructure to avoid delays in the deployment of large-scale floating offshore wind farms," RV Ahilan, Joint-CEO of LOC Group, said.

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