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EWEA 2014: Optimistic vibe, new turbines and focus on bringing down CoE

The EWEA 2014 Annual Event was held from 10 to 13 March in Barcelona and attracted over 8,000 participants from 84 countries. Although at present the Spanish wind energy market is not flourishing as much as it has done in the past, because of the cancelling of all subsidies by the government, this year’s event was busier than the last couple of years and it seems that the optimism is back as well. During the last few years people talked mostly about the recession and were not so optimistic about the industry in general. For many companies last year’s theme was about retrofitting of ‘older’ turbines, while this year many manufacturers introduced new or upgraded turbines at the show. Of course retrofitting continues to be important as this extends the lifetime of turbines and increases the annual energy production, thus increasing the overall energy production and lowering the cost of energy (CoE).

During the show GE introduced its 2.75-120 wind turbine for low wind speed regions. The 2.75-120 provides 5% more annual energy production than GE’s 2.5-120 model and is available with various tower technologies, ranging between 85 and 139 metres, and optional energy storage. Short-term storage is integrated at the turbine level and long-term storage is centralised for the wind farm. As well as the new turbine GE also introduced its space frame tower. The five-legged enclosed lattice tower enables towers up to 139 metres to be built more cost-effectively in never before accessible locations, using a logistics-friendly model of standard shipping methods and on-site assembly. Compared to a tubular tower, half the amount of steel is needed to build these towers. The lattice tower is assembled at wind farm locations and then wrapped in an architectural fabric to provide familiar solid structural aesthetics.

Siemens Energy also introduced a new turbine and announced it has uprated its D3 onshore platform. The new SWT-3.2-101, SWT-3.2-108 and SWT-3.2-113 machines feature improved performance from 3.0 to 3.2MW. Alstom also introduced an upgraded turbine with its ECO122, which is now available in a 3.0MW model with a 6% higher yield than the 2.7MW version.

Vestas has also worked on a new design for towers. During the show Vestas launched the Large Diameter Steel Tower (LDST) to increase tower height for 3MW turbines to over 140 metres. Increasing the tower heights increases the force exerted by the wind on the base of the tower. Typically, this requires the use of thicker steel plates. The LDST instead increases the diameter of the bottom section, increasing the strength while using little extra steel. The increased diameter of the tower presents a challenge in terms of transportation. Vestas has solved this by delivering the bottom tower section in three lengthways segments. These can easily and cost-effectively be transported on a flatbed truck and reassembled on site using vertical flanges to ensure strength. The LDST will be available at 137 metres for the V126-3.3 MW and 141.5 metres for the V117-3.3 MW.

Lowering the cost of energy is the main driver for companies to introduce new products and become less dependent on governmental policies and more competitive with fossil fuel energy sources. As Anne McEntee, GE’s President & CEO Renewable Energy, indicated during a interview with us, the ultimate goal of GE is to turn the industry into a subsidy free industry. I agree we should strive to become less dependent on governments but that might take a while and taking it step by step and designing innovative new products and services is the way to go in the short term.

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