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A giant gain for wind power: World's biggest wind turbines go online near Liverpool

Posted by Richard Vale on 24 May 2017 at 9:51 am

On a momentous day for renewable technology, the biggest and most powerful wind turbines in the world have begun generating electricity off the Liverpool coast.

Dong Energy, from Denmark, has installed 32 turbines in Liverpool Bay, each standing at an impressive 195m tall. To put this into perspective, that’s taller than the Gherkin skyscraper in London and substantially higher than Liverpool’s tallest building, the West Tower (which stands at a not-unimpressive 140m).  The blades alone measure 80m which is longer than nine London (or Liverpool) buses.

Their size not only makes them the biggest and most powerful in the world, it also makes them relatively cheaper as it will take fewer turbines, foundations, connecting cables and individual turbine maintenance to produce more energy. Each turbine has an output of eight megawatts (MW) making them the first of this power to be used commercially anywhere in the world. 

To expand numerically, one single blade rotation is enough to power a standard household’s energy use for 29 hours. One single rotation! In one 24 hour period (albeit it would have to be very windy day) each turbine could generate 216MWh1. This means the entire site could, in theory, meet the electricity demands of around 2,100 households in a single day. Annually the site is expected to meet the demand of over 230,000 homes.

The new development has more than twice the power capacity of the neighbouring Burbo Bank windfarm, which was completed a decade ago and stands as testament to the UK’s impressive history of leading the way in wind technology. The blades for this extension were built in the Isle of Wight, the transition pieces which link the towers were built in Teesside while assembly took place in Belfast. Dong Energy is currently constructing a new operations facility in Merseyside which will create up to 75 jobs during the construction and close to 50 during its operation.  

Dong Energy state that just one of the turbines produces more energy than the whole of Vindeby, the world's first offshore wind farm which the company constructed 25 years ago in Denmark. Chief Executive Henrik Poulsen said "the Burbo Bank Extension showcases the rapid innovation in the offshore wind industry”.

While the wind turbines currently stand as the tallest in the world, they are not expected to hold on to that title for long; researchers in the US are currently designing a wind turbine which will stand at 479m. This is taller than the Empire State Building and much taller than any building in the UK. These turbines will have segmented, bendy blades known as “extreme-scaled Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR)”. Inspired by palm trees, this design will allow the blades to survive very high wind speeds as well as allowing cheaper manufacture and transport.

It’s not just offshore windfarms where advancements are being made. Swedish energy major Vattenfall have recently partnered with BMW Group to add battery storage capabilities, in the form of 1,000 lithium-ion batteries, at their Pen y Cymoedd site in Wales.

While windfarm technology is now fairly mature, experts still believe that technological breakthroughs will lead to further falling costsand energy produced by wind will become even more competitive compared to gas and oil. 



1 - MHI Vestas

2 - Experts predict more technological advances and cost reductions for wind energy

Image credit: PaulDCocker, Daily Mail

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