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Published: 31 May 2018 31 May 2018
Demand drives US wind power development to new heights
 
The American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) Windpower 2018 conference and exhibition was organised for the third time in Chicago from 7 to 10 May. Over 7,600 wind industry professionals attended and over 450 exhibiting companies and organisations showed their products and services on the exhibition floor. After several ‘slower’ years it seems that the show is on its way up again. More people attended the annual show and most of the exhibitors we spoke to were more positive than in the last couple of years.
 
The development of wind energy projects in the USA is going well at the moment. Demand drove US wind power development to new heights in the first quarter of 2018 according to the U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2018 Market Report released by the AWEA. Wind energy customers signed over 3,500MW in long-term contracts called power purchase agreements (PPAs) in the first quarter. That is the highest volume of PPA announcements in any quarter since AWEA began tracking them in 2013.
 
Traditionally several OEM’s make announcements about new products and platforms at shows like these. Although fewer than normal also at this year’s show, new turbines were introduced.
 
Goldwind Americas has announced that it has completed the installation of its GW 3MW(S) Smart Wind Turbine test unit at the UL Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility located at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. The scalable 3MW test turbine has an assembled hub height of 130 metres and a blade tip height of 199.2 metres, which is the highest turbine currently installed in the USA. The onshore GW 3MW(S) prototype features a scalable rated capacity of up to 3.57MW and a rotor diameter of 136 metres. The platform’s structured design maintains Goldwind’s Permanent Magnet Direct Drive turbine technology and incorporates attributes from the GW 1.5 and GW 2.5MW platforms. This is the first prototype Goldwind has installed and tested outside of its headquarters in China. The US-based prototype will be fully commissioned and testing will commence by May 2018.
 
Senvion unveiled its 4.2MW platform for the North American market during the show. These new turbines are best suited to low and medium wind sites, according to the manufacturer. The 4.2M140 and 4.2M148 type turbines provide a modular approach and technical advancements such as lighter and longer rotor blades. The 4.2MW is a direct evolution of Senvion’s proven 3.XM series.
 
The focus of technological developments in the industry is on lowering the levelised cost of electricity. This is done by introducing larger turbines but also by a more predictive approach to O&M. At this year’s show we saw several companies offering monitoring platforms based on using sensors but also by using artificial intelligence (AI) software and similar software solutions. These kinds of solutions are often used for blade inspections.
 
For instance, Airfusion showed its AI-powered software solutions for blade inspections. In our April/May issue we published an article about its solution. It looks like the competition might become fierce since other companies offer similar solutions.
 
SkySpecs is a provider of automated blade inspections using a drone and intuitive software. Manual drone inspections take a long time, and require resources and much longer turbine downtime. SkySpecs’s team of robotics and aerospace engineers has developed the technology that makes 15-minute autonomous drone inspections possible, according to the company.
 
WindHub is also a maintenance data management system for blade inspection and repair. Windhub is developed by the Canadian company ML6, a software development company tailored to the wind industry.
 
Of course we saw many new companies, products and solutions during the show so this is just a brief overview. Look out for future issues to find out what other technological developments we discovered at the show.
 
In 2019 the event will be organised from 20–23 May in Houston, Texas. Traditionally Houston has been an oil and gas city but nowadays many wind energy companies have an office in the city as well. Also, Texas is the number 1 state in the USA for installed capacity of wind energy. It looks like it will be a promising city for a wind energy conference.
 
Enjoy reading,
 
Floris Siteur
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