Renewable energy company Ørsted knows a few things about the benefits of being first. In 1991, the company built the world’s first offshore wind farm a mile from the Danish coast, near the island of Lolland. By today’s standards, Vindeby — a 5-megawatt farm — was a minnow with its 11 turbines. Its creation opened a fast-growing industry whose total installed capacity topped 22.5 gigawatts in 2018, more than the total generating capacity of Greece, Portugal or Chile. Ørsted says it will hit 7.45 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020.
This fall, Ørsted is again making waves. The company just announced it would build two offshore wind farms in American waters using the Haliade-X 12 MW, the world’s most powerful wind turbine.
Ocean Wind, located off New Jersey’s coast, is the larger of the farms and is expected to come online in 2024. It will be capable of generating 1,100 megawatts, the equivalent of an average nuclear reactor in the U.S. Skipjack, off Maryland’s coast, will sport a capacity of 120 MW with expected commissioning in 2022. “We look forward to introducing the next-generation offshore wind turbine to the market,” said Martin Neubert, executive vice president and CEO of Ørsted Offshore. Neubert said that “for decades, Ørsted has pioneered the introduction of new technology and new suppliers, which has been fundamental to drive down the cost of electricity.” As a result, he said, “today, offshore wind is a competitive source of homegrown clean energy that can help countries and states achieve their climate targets while creating long-lasting economic activity.”
Whereas Vindeby’s 11 turbines were capable of generating just 450 kilowatts, one Haliade-X will be able to deliver 12 MW. The turbines have also grown up: The first wind farm’s rotors measured just 35 meters in diameter. The Haliade-X’s rotor stretches 220 meters, more than twice the length of a soccer pitch. And at 107 meters each, the turbine’s blades are so long that maker LM Wind Power, a division of GE Renewable Energy, built a massive new factory on the Atlantic coast in Cherbourg, France, to ease transportation in moving them from the plant to a cargo ship.
GE makes the nacelles — which are as large as a townhouse — at another French factory in the port city of Saint-Nazaire. The company is currently testing the blades and the nacelle in Blyth, England. It is also building a full-scale test Haliade-X turbine in Rotterdam, Holland. “We are truly excited to be selected as a preferred supplier with the most powerful offshore wind turbine on the market by the global market leader,” said Jérôme Pécresse, president and CEO of GE Renewable Energy. “Like Ørsted, we are enthusiastic about the potential of offshore wind, both in the U.S. and globally. As this announcement demonstrates, our significant investment in technology innovation positions us to help our customers lower the cost of energy produced by clean, abundant, reliable offshore wind just as the industry prepares for dramatic growth.”
GE wind turbines also power America’s first offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island, which runs on Haliade 150-6MW units. There might be more work on the horizon. In the U.S., seven states on the East Coast have committed to building a total of 20 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2035.