Most new innovative technology will come from offshore wind turbines
Onshore turbine manufacturers have opted to pursue evolutionary improvements to their next generation wind turbine products, while dramatic technology shifts are occurring in the offshore product landscape according to MAKE’s report Global Wind Turbine Trends 2017. Turbines have grown larger, more productive, cost-effective and reliable due to technology investments. The next decade will bring further change, but the role of technology has shifted as the industry continues to evolve and work towards being competitive with other forms of power, in terms of levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).
Differences in regional demand preferences are forcing many turbine OEMs to pursue platform-based wind turbine solutions that enable mass customisation to meet local needs, while providing scale to serve the global market. Wind energy has reached grid parity in many markets, where LCOE is competitive with traditional forms of thermal power generation.
Despite long product cycles, offshore wind defines the innovation horizon, as the most radical technological approaches continue to be applied to this segment of the wind energy market. The 10+MW turbines that will be introduced over the coming years are stretching the limits of traditional technologies, as these turbines require revolutionary technologies. Reliability is paramount in the offshore environment, but the next generation of offshore turbines must also focus on providing cost-effective power to compete in the future rounds of subsidy free tenders. Every component must be effectively re-engineered at this scale, resulting in dramatically different drive-trains, rotor systems and power electronics.
In the onshore segment, technology initiatives will become more evolutionary in nature, as turbine OEMs leverage existing platforms, technologies and cost positions. In addition, dramatically different components will suffer from a supply chain with insufficient economies of scale, limiting the cost competitiveness of revolutionary technology.
Consolidation of turbine OEMs is well under way, as many of the leading turbine manufacturers will need to make tough decisions on their comprehensive portfolio. Chinese turbine manufacturers are also undergoing a period of consolidation, as the domestic competitive field has largely stabilised, and turbines’ track records have assumed a larger role in asset owners’ purchasing decisions as the market has evolved. The first example of this consolidation this year is the acquisition of Lagerwey by Enercon. Enercon has signed an agreement with the shareholders of Lagerwey to acquire a 100% interest in the company as of 1 January 2018. This strategic move will enable Lagerwey to leverage its technology on a larger scale and will provide Enercon with a broader portfolio of products. For now Lagerwey will continue to operate as a stand-alone company with its own brand and organisation but will closely cooperate with Enercon in areas where synergies can be realised.
Let me end this Publisher’s Note with the most important thing: my best wishes for 2018. I hope it may bring health and prosperity for you and for your families.