Vestas eyes an offshore Goliath

The Danish wind giant is seeking permission to test a record 10MW turbine, with 100m-long rotors, as it battles offshore market share leader Siemens.


Denmark's Vestas is seeking a green light from the government to test the largest offshore wind turbine yet, papers submitted to local government show, in a bid to catch up with rival Siemens at the new frontier of wind energy.

Although Vestas said it had no immediate plans to develop them, the documents show it has applied for permission to set up test turbines of up to 10 MW in waters west of Jutland, the part of Denmark linked to continental Europe.

That is a quarter more powerful than the 8 MW turbine Vestas is testing now and which could power 7500 homes a year.

Vestas is developing these turbines together with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as part of their MHI Vestas Offshore joint venture.

Vestas is the world's largest wind turbine maker based on its market share for windmills on land but it has fallen behind in the race for the fledgling offshore market.

The industry is developing larger and larger turbines that can be placed further offshore, where the wind potential is greater and prospects of public resistance are smaller.

"We will not make any comment now on the precise development plans for future wind turbines, but we are always looking to optimise our platforms," chief executive of the joint venture, Jens Tommerup, said in an email to Reuters, adding that the focus now was on the 8 MW turbine.

The documents submitted to the Ringkobing-Skjern commune, on the west coast of Jutland, relate to tests of the 8 MW turbine but show a request to be allowed to install 10 MW units.

Giant sweeps

Siemens, which plans to unveil a 10 MW offshore turbine by the end of the decade, extended its offshore lead over Vestas last year, with a European market share of 60 per cent, data from the European Wind Energy Association showed.

But Vestas has a habit of surprising the industry with its investments. In 2011 it unveiled a 7 MW turbine when investors had expected a 6 MW unit, before announcing that the turbine would then run at 8 MW.

It's most powerful turbine in service has a capacity of 3.3 MW and stands at between 140-190m, depending on its location, with the capacity to power 3300 homes.

The 8 MW turbine has a tip height of about 220m with 164m rotors that have a sweep area of more than 21,000 square metres, equal to three football pitches. Siemens' 6 MW offshore turbine has 154m rotors.

A 10 MW turbine would have a rotor diameter of up to 200m and an overall height of up to 250m, according to the documents.

Siemens was Europe's top offshore supplier last year, installing 1249 wind turbines compared with just 574 turbines from Vestas.

Britain and Denmark are Europe's leading offshore wind markets, with installed capacities of 3.68 GW and 1.27 GW respectively. In Denmark, 33-34 per cent of electricity is provided by wind farms and the government wants to increase that to 50 per cent by 2020. 

Originally published by Reuters. Reproduced with permission. 

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