Record-setting Haliade-X prototype turning ‘in a week or two’

Record-setting Haliade-X prototype turning ‘in a week or two’

GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X prototype, at 12MW the biggest wind turbine ever built, will be turning ‘in a week or two’, with plans to push the offshore machine beyond its nameplate capacity during trials at its test stand in the Netherlands.

Though the OEM’s head of offshore wind, John Lavelle stressed that “it is a 12MW machine we are testing”, the unit, which flies a 220-metre-diameter rotor powering a direct-drive transmission with permanent-magnet generator, has been erected on a demonstration site in the Port of Rotterdam that is permitted for a turbine of up-to-14MW.

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“We have the ‘headroom’ in the permitting to give us that option during power curve tests, to see how much extra is in the machine,” said Lavelle, speaking to Recharge at AWEA Offshore.

“This is a matter of prudent planning. When we come out with a design we are always looking for ways of improving its AEP [annual energy production], finding where we can push the technology and where the technology might be holding us back – heat, vibration, or certain loads.

“You want to see what they are in the field and see if you got some more in it.”

The Haliade-X, launched in March 2018, is now entering a period of intensive validation that will see the performance of the Rotterdam unit quality-checked against a second 12MW nacelle that is being life-cycle tested at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in the UK, where one of the 107-metre-long blade is already being trialled. A second blade is soon to be on its way to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre in Boston , which yesterday received funding from the US Department of Energy to extend its test rig for trials of the technology.

“This is going to be one of the most heavily tested pieces of machinery in industrial history,” said Lavelle. “It is all coming together pretty nicely now.”

Trials and final technology validation are slated to be complete, capped with a type certificate, “later next year”, he adds. “It’s a kind of an engineer’s playground.”

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Developers Equinor, SSE and Orsted, all of which have awarded GE preferred supplier status for projects, will be “over [GE’s] shoulder” during the process, following up on due diligence work carried out over the last year, noted Lavelle.

GE is racing to get the Haliade-X ready for market, with orders for the UK’s 3.6GW Dogger Bank mega-project and the US’ Skipjack and Ocean Wind developments representing delivies of hundreds of Haliade-Xs between 2022-2025 from the OEM’s Saint-Nazaire and Cherbourg factories in France, where GE is about to start manufacturing the 6MW Haliades for EDF’s 498MW Saint-Nazaire wind farm.

The head of GE’s North America offshore wind business, Derek Stilwell, was reported recently to have said construction of a US factory for the Haliade-X was ‘inevitable’, but Lavelle underlines that the company is still working out the logistics of where the machines are going to be built.

“You always look at the confluence of the global volumes [of orders] – so today first you have to nail down the UK and US schedules and how they are really going to lay in,” said Lavelle.

“And you have contingency plans [to accommodate] if that volume comes in in certain way and determine how you would manage it. We have time. We are looking at the chess board of ways we can [deliver turbines to contracted projects].”

Swedish utility Vattenfall was the first developer to opt to deploy Haliade-Xs, announcing in May it would use the machine for projects in the North and Baltic Seas but stopping short of naming GE as its preferred supplier. The giant turbine has also been mooted for the 720MW Asa Branca project off Brazil and the OEM recently unveiled plans to build a dedicated Haliade-X factory in China, to manufacture the machine for the Asian superpower’s soon-to-boom market.

The growth of the global offshore wind market continues to confound conservative industry analysts, with the International Renewable Energy Agency last month doubling its forecasts for 2050, when it now expects more than 1,000GW will be installed and turning around the world.