Vestas Unveils Goliath of Offshore Wind Turbines

Danish wind power giant Vestas has announced plans for a turbine of giant proportions. The 7-megawatt behemoth is an offshore design; it will rise 135 meters (443 feet) above the waves, and feature a rotor blade that measures a full 80 meters (262 feet).

This isn't the first turbine to crack 7 MW -- that honor probably belongs to Enercon's E-126 -- but it is the first time the world's biggest wind turbine company raised the bar that high. In an introductory video for the Vestas V164, the company's technology R&D president Finn Madsen said this is the first turbine "100 percent dedicated to offshore, and optimized for the conditions in the North Sea."

Most of the existing offshore wind turbines -- none of which, of course, are yet spinning in U.S. waters -- max out at around 5 MW capacities. Vestas is responsible for a huge percentage of the worldwide offshore wind capacity: as of the end of 2010, the company had installed 580 offshore turbines, for a total capacity of 1407 MW. This accounts for about 43 percent of the world market.

The first 7-MW giants will be built by the end of 2012, with full scale production starting a few years later.

Of course, building any turbines, let alone truly enormous ones, in offshore conditions is difficult. As Peter Fairley has reported here, wind conditions around the world could be changing and making it even more challenging; increasing dangerous gust conditions could require big turbines like the new Vestas entry to shut down to avoid damage more often than in the past.

(Image via Vestas)

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