Wind Turbines Could Continue to Grow, Reduce Energy Costs

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By Editors of Power Engineering.

A new study by Berkeley Lab suggests that wind turbines could continue to grow in size and further decrease wind energy generation costs.

The study was based on surveys of 163 of the world’s foremost wind energy experts, and aimed at gaining insight into the possible magnitude and source of future wind energy cost reductions.

The surveys indicated larger turbines are on the horizon, and will allow for lower costs both on land and offshore. The growth in land turbine size should be evolutionary, while offshore will have more revolutionary growth.

Land-based wind turbines have steadily grown over the years, from an average hub height of 18 meters in the 1980s to an average of 82 meters in 2015. Power generation has also grown, from an average of 0.1 MW in the 1980s to 2 MW today.

The study projects land-based wind turbines will reach an average hub height of 115 meters and power generation of 3.25 MW by 2030.

Offshore wind turbines have grown from an average hub height of 64 meters and power generation of 1.6 MW in 2000 to a hub height of 90 meters and power generation of 4.1 MW in 2015, with predicted growth to a hub height of 125 meters and power generation of 11 MW by 2030.

The study noted the average turbine generator capacity has stayed roughly the same since 2011as companies attach bigger blades to the same generator size to increase energy capture and lower the cost of generation.

Developers have also increased the capacity of recently built projects above 40 percent by deploying systems originally designed for lower wind speeds in windy yet low-turbulence areas in the U.S. interior.

The U.S. leads Europe in specific power, with an average of 250 W/m2 in the U.S. and 350 W/m2 in Europe. However, hub heights have grown faster in Europe.

These trends are largely due to the limited number of developable, high-quality wind sites in densely-populated Europe.

Predictions for future turbine size varied, as some indicated smaller machines will be more common, while others feel larger turbines will dominate. 

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