Gargantuan 22-MW wind turbine will be among history's largest machines
Imagine something as tall as New York's Chrysler building, but spinning. China's Mingyang Smart Energy has announced plans for a colossal 22-megawatt offshore wind turbine, and standing in its presence will be an unprecedented human experience.
The feats of engineering in offshore wind are becoming almost comical in scale, for a simple reason: the amount of energy you can extract from a turbine depends mostly on its swept area. The bigger that swept circle gets, the more energy you can harvest – but also, the greater the bonus becomes for adding more length.
Put it this way: if your turbine has a 20-meter (85.6-ft) diameter, and you add one further meter (3.3 ft) to that diameter, you gain somewhere around 34 square meters (366 sq ft) of additional swept area. But if your turbine starts with a 50-m (164 ft) diameter, adding one extra meter of diameter brings in about 79 extra square meters (850 sq ft) of swept area, since that extra blade length is sweeping a bigger circle.
What's more, these huge offshore turbines are extremely expensive to install, and the economics of deployment and grid connection tend to work in favor of fewer, larger turbines than more, smaller ones.
Thus, the sheer size of these things is getting absolutely nutty. The H260-18MW turbine currently under construction by CSSC uses 128-m-long (420-ft) long blades for a ridiculous 260-m (853-ft) diameter and a 53,000-sq-m (570,490-sq-ft) swept area. That's 9.9 NFL football fields or 42.4 Olympic swimming pools when converted to standard journalistic units – ignoring the small area left unswept by its hub.
MingYang's own typhoon-proof MYSE 18.X-28X, pictured above, will use 140-m (459-ft) blades for a swept area of 66,052 sq m (711,000 sq ft, 12.3 NFL fields, 52.8 Olympic swimming pools) – again, minus the hub area.
The new turbine proposed for 2025 by MingYang, according to Bloomberg, will have a peak output of 22 MW, and a rotor diameter over 310 m (1,017 ft), corresponding to a swept area of at least 75,477 sq m (812,425 sq ft, 14.1 NFL football fields, 60 olympic swimming pools), minus hub.
Add on a little clearance to make sure the blade tips stay out of the water, and you'll probably be looking at something taller than New York's 319-m (1,047-ft), 77-story Chrysler Tower, or the 324-m (1,063-ft) Eiffel Tower in Paris – but spinning. I don't have an imagination capable of picturing just how awe-inspiring a machine like this would be at close range.
Indeed, these will be some of the largest moving parts ever built. Can you think of anything else with visible moving parts this big? Nothing in the mining mega-machine category comes close, and while the 27-km (16.6-mile) circumference of the Large Hadron Collider holds the title of the world's largest machine overall, it's hidden underground, and particle acceleration isn't exactly a spectator sport.
So taking a boat ride past these mammoth offshore wind turbines will be pretty much an unprecedented human experience. It'll be breathtaking. Sign me up!