Photo: Enercon E-126, currently the biggest wind turbine
Winds of ChangeWind turbines have been getting bigger and more powerful for a while. It wasn't that long ago that 1.5-megawatt turbines were considered impressive, but now we have the Enercon E-126 (pictured above and below), currently the biggest wind turbine and able to generate 7 megawatts. But even that isn't even close to reaching the physical limits of what we can build; The Norwegian company Sway will build a 533-feet, 10-megawatt giant by 2011 (follow by 2 years of testing), and a Spanish group of companies is planning a 15-megawatt turbine by 2020.
Photo: Enercon E-126, currently the biggest wind turbineAbout the Spanish giant:
Eleven companies and 22 research centres specialising in offshore wind energy technologies have joined forces on the Azimut. Offshore Wind Energy 2020 project, for the purpose of generating the know-how required to develop a large-scale marine wind turbine using 100% Spanish technology. [...]
The initiative, scheduled to finalise in 2013, is designed to establish the technological groundwork for the subsequent development, in around 2020, of a large-scale offshore wind turbine. The programme's initial objectives call for developing a turbine with unit capacity of 15 MW that is capable of overcoming the technical and financial hurdles currently limiting the rollout of offshore wind energy. The most pressing of these obstacles are availability, turbine foundations and energy delivery to land, and the challenge consists in narrowing the gap between offshore energy's cost and required investment and those of onshore wind energy sites. (source)
Of course, the protoypes of these will be expensive (about 67 million dollars for the Sway one), but once they are mass-produced, costs should drop and they should help to further decrease the cost of wind power.
Just imagine an offshore wind farm with hundreds of 15MW turbines, located on a site where the wind blows almost all the time, combined with all kind of high-tech ways to squeeze out more power (variable geometry blades, real-time wind forecasting, etc). That's probably what the future will be like...
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