Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wind Technology Trends (GE; VWS.CO)

WARNING: Renewable Energy World has put together a piece that is only suitable for wonks, aficionados or the deranged (there is some overlap). Wow. Via Reuters:

More than 31,000 MW of new wind capacity was added worldwide in 2008, a record that can be described as an absolute milestone in the modern history of wind power development. Fortunately that build up -- and the dip in overall wind market demand that has followed the financial constraints -- did not take place at the expense of wind industry development nor technology innovation.

The past year has seen another raft of developments and announcements. For instance, from Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer, comes the new 3-MW V112-3.0 MW. This new turbine, possibly the most important new turbine model introduction since the V90-3.0 MW was launched in 2003, joins the company's existing range of models from 850 kW to 3 MW along with two other new products announced earlier this year.

Among the features of the V112 are a three-point gearbox support, a permanent magnet-type synchronous generator with full converter, and a 112-metre rotor. Interestingly, this gearbox support solution signals a return to the drivetrain technology principles of the former NEG Micon, and is a mechanical layout that is also widely applied elsewhere in the industry. The switch of design concept is widely viewed as a departure from the lightweight V90-3.0 MW turbine model, which features a compact design with a semi-integrated drivetrain system. Also new from Vestas is the V100-1.8 MW, which builds on the mechanical design principles of the V80-2.0 MW series.

Compared with the V90-3.0 MW, the new V112-3.0 MW turbine offers a 55% larger rotor swept area, while compared with the V80-2.0 MW, the new V100-1.8 MW offers a 56% larger swept area. Both of these Vestas products also present a new 2009 corporate nacelle design, featuring a distinct CoolerTop radiator on top.

Finally, an 850-kW model version with an enlarged 60-metre rotor (V60-850 kW) has been introduced, specifically focused on low and medium wind speed sites in markets such as China.

Moving on from Vestas, US giant GE began series production of its 2.5-MW GE 2.5xl turbine in both Salzbergen, Germany, and Noblejas, Spain, in September 2008. The company's focus for this machine is initially European wind markets, but a 60 Hz 2.5xl version will be introduced into the US in 2010.

According to a GE spokesperson, the 2.5xl will offer an alternative to the company's 1.5-MW workhorse series in densely populated US regions with land constraints. There are now more than 13,000 of GE's 1.5-MW machine in operation, a record number that is expected to hit the 20,000 mark by the end of 2010. Despite dominating the 1.5-MW sector, in the 2- to 3.3-MW segment, GE faces stiff competition from suppliers such as Acciona, Clipper, Fuhrlander, Mitsubishi, Nordex, REpower, Siemens and Vestas.

Meanwhile, GE has taken Japan's Mitsubishi to court over a dispute related to rights to variable speed technology, allegedly incorporated into Mitsubishi's 2.4-MW MWT 92 and MWT 95 models, which have been in operation since 2006. This 'patent war' reportedly involves three of GE's patents, and - depending on court rulings - could potentially ban future US imports of these machines. This is but the latest in a series of patent battles. In the early 1990s, a bitter variable speed patent dispute with GE (which lasted until May 2004) left Enercon of Germany banned from the US market. Since 1992 Enercon has marketed variable-speed direct drive turbines with synchronous generators and a full converter, but ownership of the initial 1992 patent during the period to 2004 changed hands from Kenetech, via the one-time Enron Wind, to current holder GE....MUCH MORE