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20 Megawatt wind turbines are feasible, according to a new report from the EU-funded UpWind project. The UpWind project explored the design limits of upscaling wind turbines to 20 Megawatt (MW) and found that they would have rotor diameters of around 200 metres, compared to some 120 metres on today's 5 MW turbines.

EWEA forecasts that wind energy will meet 26-34% of Europe's electricity demand power by 2030, with almost as much electricity coming from offshore turbines as from those onshore. 20 MW machines could be a cost-efficient way of reaching these levels of production. However, according to the UpWind report published, the 20 MW turbine requires a new, innovative, tailored design to make it work. Amongst the main innovations UpWind suggests for a 20 MW wind turbine are:
  • Lowering fatigue loads on blades allows longer and lighter blades to be built.
  • The future smart wind turbine would be able to adapt its position and the pitch of its blade to local wind conditions.
  • Lowering the power output of the first row of turbines allows for higher overall wind farm efficiency.
  • Putting sensors on one wind turbine allows the fatigue loading on the other turbines to be estimated if the relationship of fatigue loading between the wind turbines is known.
  • Loads can be alleviated preventatively by evaluating the upcoming gust before it arrives at the turbine. A nacelle-mounted LIDAR is sufficiently accurate for wind energy applications.
Although significant research is still needed we could see 20 MW turbines in operation by 2020.
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