Offshore Wind Defines Innovation Horizon, MAKE Says

Wind turbine technology has matured significantly, resulting in substantial reductions in LCOE and increased competitiveness of wind energy on the grid. Turbines have grown larger, more productive, cost effective and reliable due to technology investments.

The next decade will bring further change, but the role of technology has shifted as the industry continues to evolve and work towards LCOE grid parity.

Competitive forces have changed in recent years, resulting in wind turbine technology evolution. Cost control has become critical and turbine manufacturers are utilizing platform-based products and asset-light supply chains to maintain a cost competitive position.

Many technology initiatives will become more evolutionary in nature, as turbine OEMs leverage existing platforms and technologies, while differences in regional demand will require mass customization of product lines to meet the needs of global target markets. Wind energy is nearing the critical point of grid parity in many markets, where LCOE is competitive with traditional forms of thermal power generation. Much of this progress is due to technical advances, and sustained technology improvements will enable wind to be competitive in a subsidy free environment.

Despite long product cycles, offshore wind defines the innovation horizon, as the most radical technological approaches continue to be applied to this segment. The 6-10 MW turbines that will be introduced over the coming years are stretching the limits of traditional technologies, as these turbines require game-changing technologies in order to deliver a cost-effective turbine with reliability to withstand the offshore environment. Every component must be effectively re-engineered at this scale, resulting in dramatically different drivetrains, rotor systems and power electronics.

In the onshore segment, technology initiatives will become more evolutionary in nature, as turbine OEMs leverage existing platforms, technologies and cost positions. The risk appetite of onshore developers do not allow for radically different approaches to turbine design. In addition, dramatically different components will suffer from a supply chain with insufficient economies of scale, limiting the cost competitiveness of ‘revolutionary’ technology.

MAKE’s 2014 Wind Turbine Trends is a 56-page report which provides  an overview of the global wind industry’s most critical technology trends, the impact those trends have on wind energy’s Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) and the regional market drivers behind those trends. It focusses on new product development initiatives within the turbine’s strategic components – blades, gearboxes, generators, power converters, towers, and controls.

Press release; Image: Narec (Illustration)