As wind turbines grow in popularity, General Electric wants them to grow another way, too: up. The company has announced plans to build what it says will be the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine, which may also be the most powerful turbine in the world to date.
Called the Haliade-X, GE's turbine will stand 853 feet tall, according to NBC, which is more than three times taller than typical wind turbines. Haliade-X will be capable of generating 67 gigawatt-hours a year under typical wind conditions, or 45 percent more than any existing offshore turbine. That's enough energy to power 16,000 households.
“The renewables industry took more than 20 years to install the first 17 GW of offshore wind,” said Jérôme Pécresse, President and CEO of GE Renewable Energy. “Today, the industry forecasts that it will install more than 90 GW over the next 12 years. This is being driven by lower cost of electricity from scale and technology. The Haliade-X shows GE’s commitment to the offshore wind segment and will set a new benchmark for cost of electricity, thus driving more offshore growth.”
The massive height of the new turbines is all about efficiency. Larger blades make turbines more resilient to variations in wind speed, which can reduce a turbine’s efficiency. The longer the blades (the Haliade X’s will be 351 feet), the more energy they capture. Offshore wind farms are also expensive to build and maintain, so it makes sense to use bigger turbines instead of more.
“The number of hours at sea for planned maintenance is largely independent of the size of the turbine, resulting in a lower cost to maintain the offshore wind farm with larger turbines,” Vincent Schellings, a product development manager at GE Renewable Energy in the Netherlands, told NBC News.
It's unclear if GE's new turbine will become the industry standard size or if they will keep growing, but what is for certain is that wind power is not done growing in popularity. Wind power now provides about 5.6 percent of U.S. electricity needs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association, up from 4.7 percent in 2015 and 3.5 percent in 2012. The U.S. Department of Energy also predicts that wind energy could supply 35 percent of the nation’s energy by 2050.
GE said the new turbine will begin shipping in 2021, but it's unclear when construction will be complete.