World’s largest wind turbine is now fully operational

Since the early 2000s, wind turbines have been growing in size and efficiency. The tallest turbines can reach over 198m and cost more than $12 million to manufacture and install. But that’s not all, these offshore giants can produce almost four times more energy than their onshore counterparts! From Denmark to China, the race is on to develop the biggest and most powerful wind turbines yet.

Plus, did you know that wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity after solar? With a projected market size of $98.4 billion by 2030, the future of wind energy is looking bright and huge!

Three Gorges Energy has connected the world’s first 16 megawatt monster offshore wind turbine to the power grid. With a mind-boggling 260m rotor diameter, this towering colossus will supply clean energy for about 36 000 Chinese homes.

It doesn’t look all that out of place, standing in a field of other, lesser goliaths, but this MingYang Smart Energy MySE 16-260 is the largest ever connected to the grid. The “engine room” and generator housed in the hub on top of its 152m tower weigh in at a gargantuan 385 tons, and each of its three 123m blades adds another 54 tons, hanging off one side of the generator shaft.

Every time it completes a full revolution, it sweeps about 50 000m² of air (that’s seven-odd soccer fields in the internationally accepted layman’s units), and sends up to 34.2kWh of energy into the Chinese power system. Annually, it’s expected to contribute about 66 gigawatt-hours.

This demonstration unit sits in the Fujian offshore wind farm in the Taiwan Strait, where it’ll take advantage of a natural wind tunnel effect. According to the Three Gorges Group, this location experiences level 7 ‘near gale’ conditions with winds exceeding 51km/h more than 200 days each year.

Indeed, the area is prone to typhoons, so this enormous turbine has an opportunity to prove its mettle against the elements. It’s designed to withstand winds up to 179mph (287km/h) – that leaves a margin over the most violent conditions ever measured in the Western North Pacific: Typhoon Tip, which featured sustained winds of 160mph (260km/h) in 1979. Mind you, the way weather systems are flying off kilter as climate change continues to advance, it’s hard to know what to expect going forward.

Offshore wind turbines will continue to grow in size; the China State Shipbuilding Corporation was already building an 18-megawatt turbine back in January and it seems reasonable to expect a 20-MW announcement any day now. Source: Three Gorges Corporation via Xinhua.