Last month, GE Renewable Energy unveiled its plan to build the world's largest, most powerful offshore wind turbine, known as the Haliade-X. This Tuesday, it was announced that the mammoth rig will be tested and developed over the next five years, at the UK's Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult research center.

Featuring a 12-megawatt direct drive generator, the Haliade-X will produce 45 percent more energy than any other offshore wind turbine currently available. More specifically, plans call for it to generate up to 67 GWh (Gigawatt hours) annually, which is reportedly enough to power up to 16,000 European households.

It will stand 260 meters (853 ft) tall, with a 220-meter (722-ft) rotor incorporating three 107-meter (351-ft) blades – they will be the longest offshore blades ever made. The turbine will also have an "industry-leading" 63-percent gross capacity factor. GE defines gross capacity factor as a comparison of the amount of energy that was generated, versus the maximum that could have been produced at continuous full power operation during a specific period of time.

So, why go with one giant wind turbine (or a few), instead of a greater number of smaller ones? According to the company, using fewer turbines results in less capital expenditure for a wind farm, a shorter installation time, and simplified maintenance and operation of the farm. All of these factors combined, says GE, should make offshore wind farming more profitable, which would be reflected in lower electricity costs for consumers.

In the just-announced arrangement, the Haliade-X will undergo testing and development at ORE Catapult's 15-megawatt wind turbine power train test facility, located in Blyth, Northumberland.

Among other things, engineers will be assessing cooling technologies, converters, and loading conditions across mechanical and electrical components, plus they'll be conducting grid testing and design validation. To that end, a grid emulation system will be built, which will be the largest and most powerful such system in the world.

"This is an important agreement because it will enable us to prove Haliade-X in a faster way by putting it under controlled and extreme conditions," says John Lavelle, president and CEO of GE's Offshore Wind business. "Traditional testing methods rely on local wind conditions and therefore have limited repeatability for testing. By using ORE Catapult's facilities and expertise, we will be in a better position to adapt our technology in a shortened time, reduce unplanned maintenance, increase availability and power output, while introducing new features to meet customers' demands."

It is hoped that the first complete Haliade-X turbines will be ready in 2021. They can be seen in computer-animated action, in the video below.

Sources: GE, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

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