GE Is Speeding Massive Offshore Wind Turbine to Market

GE Renewable Energy’s mammoth offshore wind 12-MW Haliade-X  turbine is on track for an accelerated commercial launch in 2021, the company said as it unveiled the turbine’s first manufactured components on July 22.

Haliade-X features a 220-meter (m) rotor and a 107-m blade designed by GE subsidiary LM Wind Power. The turbine design also includes digital capabilities. GE says the wind turbine model features a 63% capacity factor—which is “five to seven points above the industry standard.” For GE, scaling up is important. “Each incremental point in capacity factor represents around $7 million in revenue for our customers over the life of a wind farm,” it noted. In January, the company said it would install a Haliade-X 12-MW offshore wind prototype in the Netherlands this summer.

On Monday, the company unveiled the first nacelle and said it would be shipped from its production site in Saint-Nazaire, France, to Rotterdam-Maasvlakte in the Netherlands “over the coming weeks.” The components will be installed on the prototype, which is land-based to facilitate testing.

On July 22, 2019, GE Renewable Energy unveiled the first nacelle manufactured for a Haliade-X offshore wind turbine prototype at its production facility in Saint-Nazaire, France. Courtesy: GE Renewable Energy

GE says this initial phase is designed to allow it to obtain the data required to receive its type certification—which is key to commercializing the product in 2021. According to John Lavelle, GE Renewable Energy Offshore Wind CEO, the company expects to receive the type certificate in 2020. After that, “we will be ready to start mass production and send out the first commercial units by mid-2021,” he said.

Second Nacelle Being Assembled

A second Haliade-X 12-MW nacelle is also currently being assembled at Saint-Nazaire, and when completed, it will be dispatched to the ORE Catapult test centre at Blyth, in the UK, over “the coming months,” the company said. “The nacelle will be testing in actual operational conditions to reduce the time required to confirm its performance levels and reliability,” it said.

GE is moving speedily with development of the Haliade-X because it sees opportunity in the burgeoning global offshore wind sector. The massive turbine could allow customers to “to generate more power more effectively, in an environment in which they face increased competition,” it said. “The new offshore wind turbine boasts unparalleled dimensions and the use of advanced technologies,” it noted.

However, GE faces stiff competition from other offshore wind turbine makers, including rivals like Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and MHI Vestas, which last year together controlled 60% of the offshore market. According to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, in 2018, GE Renewable Energy held a sparse 3% share of the global market.

But GE Renewable Energy already has a leg up in the North American market, where it has installed five first-generation Haliade wind turbines (the 6-MW Haliade 150) at Block Island in Rhode Island, America’s first commercial offshore wind farm. Business prospects in the U.S. have soared after New York and New Jersey recently committed to expanding offshore wind capacities.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in total, more than 25,740 MW of offshore wind projects are currently in various stages of development off the East Coast and in the Great Lakes, with additional potential off the West Coast.

However, only one other offshore wind project is currently under construction in the U.S. That’s Dominion’s 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) demonstration project off the coast of Virginia Beach.

Construction of the $300 million wind farm, which will have two Siemens Gamesa 6-MW SWT-6.0-154 wind turbines, kicked off at the beginning of July, and is targeted to be completed in 2020. The project will be funded through existing base rates, as enabled by the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 (GTSA). Dominion retained Danish offshore giant Ørsted as the project engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor, and L.E. Myers Co. to perform onshore electrical design and construction.

More Than 80 Haliade Turbines Already Built

GE’s Saint-Nazaire production site, which is dedicated to manufacturing offshore wind turbine generators and nacelles, has already assembled more than 80 Haliade 150-6MW wind turbines since opening in December 2014. Along with Block Island, it has supplied turbines to the Xinghua Gulf project in China, and the Merkur offshore wind farm in Germany, GE said.

The company may have also snagged its first Haliade-X customer. In May, Swedish utility Vattenfall said it will take up deployment of turbine in Europe. The two companies agreed to cooperate after a year of “intensive exchanges during which Vattenfall conducted an in-depth technical due diligence and both companies jointly worked on the customization of the platform,” Vattenfall said on May 16. The companies will likely finalize details of the cooperation this summer, after which Vattenfall plans a “deep dive on specific projects” within its offshore wind pipeline.

—Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)