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Next Wind Turbine Battleground Is Focused on 5 MW Units

Jesse Broehl
Apr 24, 2019

Wind Energy 3

About 2 years ago, I wrote that the 4 MW class of wind turbines is the new battleground. Prior to 2017, there were few wind turbines available with rated capacities of 4 MW and above for onshore wind and only a few prototypes and commercial deployments. Then midway through 2017, no less than four turbine OEMs announced new 4 MW turbine models for onshore wind.

Fast-forward to 2Q 2019 and part two of the turbine battleground wars are on. Over the past few months, four of the top western wind turbine OEMs have announced new turbines for onshore that exceed 5 MW.

A number of factors are pushing OEMs to design more turbines with higher nameplate capacities. This includes the steady shift in Europe and other markets from generous fixed-price power contracts to highly competitive power contract auctions. These auctions squeeze power purchase agreement pricing for wind projects as low as developers and investors are willing to go.

To cope with lower power prices turbine OEMs are making machines produce more power and do so more cost-effectively. This is primarily achieved through remarkable increases in blade length and corresponding rotor diameter, which enables higher turbine capacities and higher annual energy production (AEP). Taller towers and corresponding hub heights also increase AEP. Also, efficiencies of scale with producing the most megawatt-hours from each single wind turbine foundation and tower. This also helps in population-dense and land-constrained areas like Europe and parts of Asia.

The New Onshore Turbines Competing in the 5 MW Class
  • Vestas: Vestas introduced its EnVentus wind turbine platform in January 2019. EnVentus is the first new turbine platform developed and introduced since 2011 with V164 offshore turbines. The first two models on the new platform will be a V150-5.6 MW (150 m rotor), aimed at medium to high wind speed sites, and a V162-5.6 MW (162 m rotor) targeted at low to medium wind conditions. A feature of the new platform is the shift to a medium speed drivetrain versus the conventional high speed geared drivetrains that Vestas has used for all previous onshore wind turbines. The commercial success and reliability of the medium speed drivetrains with the MHI-Vestas offshore turbines informed the decision to use the same drivetrain for the new oversized 5 MW class. The turbines will have full power converters and permanent magnet generators. 
  • General Electric (GE) Renewable Energy: GE Renewable Energy announced its new 5.3-158 (158 m rotor). This is the second of its new Cypress turbine platform that began in 2017 as a 4.8 m turbine. The new turbine achieves its 158 m blade length with two piece blades manufactured by GE’s subsidiary LM Wind Power. It continues with GE’s use of doubly fed induction generators (DFIG) and partial power conversion. 
  • Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy: The company introduced its new Siemens Gamesa 5.X onshore platform. It encompasses two turbine models—the SG 5.8-155 (155 m rotor) and the SG 5.8-170 (170 m rotor). The 170 m rotor is the largest in the onshore segment. It is a DFIG machine with a partial power converter and three-stage gearbox. 
  • Nordex: Germany’s Nordex used its N149/4.0-4.5 turbine and used the same rotor and DFIG drivetrain but upgraded the electrical system and used a new gearbox to enable the N149/5.X

The next turbine OEM likely to join the 5 MW battleground is Germany’s Enercon, but this has yet to be confirmed.