The global wind industry has been witnessing an increase in average turbine size over the years. The industry, for the first time, crossed the average turbine size mark of 2.5 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2017. With the growth in offshore wind installations and technological advancement, the average turbine size increased from 1.77MW in 2010 to 2.70MW in 2017.
Europe is pushing the average turbine size to move northward with its focus on offshore wind installations and repowering of older turbines in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. The average turbine size in the region exceeded 3MW in 2017 on account of offshore wind installations. In 2017, the region reported the addition of more than 3.6 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind installations. During the same year 706 offshore turbines were installed in Europe, with turbine size ranging from 2MW to 8MW. Out of 706 turbines, there was only one single turbine which had a turbine capacity of less than 2.5MW. The region also witnessed major repowering during 2017. More than 150 onshore repowered turbines aggregating 510MW were added in Europe. Enercon GmbH and Vestas Wind Systems A/S led the repowering market as they installed capacities of 203 MW and 180MW, respectively. The Zuidwester wind farm in the Netherlands was repowered with Enercon’s E-126/7,580kW in 2017. Many wind farms in Germany where the previous turbines were in the sub-MW segment were repowered with turbines having more than 2MW turbine size.
Countries in South and Central America have also witnessed an average increase in turbine size. The region has been continuously focusing on areas with higher wind speed where turbines with higher nameplate capacity are getting installed. A country like Brazil, which reports one of the highest capacity factors in the world owing to consistent wind, has witnessed an increase in average turbine size over the past decade. The average turbine size which was installed in the country in 2010 was the same as the global average, but in 2017 this increased to 2.76MW. The country has been focusing on the northeastern states for wind installations. Most of the wind farms which came online in Brazil in 2017 were in the northeastern states of Bahia, Piaui, and Rio Grande do Norte. Nordex SE and GE Renewable Energy supplied turbines with sizes of 3MW and 2.7MW, respectively, in these regions. Chile also witnessed the addition of new turbines in 2017 with turbine size greater than the average of 2.5MW. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA supplied 13 G128-5.0MW turbines in Chile for the San Pedro wind farm which came online in 2017.
The Asia-Pacific region has also witnessed a significant increase in average turbine size over the years. The average turbine size in the region at the end of 2017 was 2.39MW, a jump of 55% from the 2010 level. This was mainly driven by the focus of Chinese companies on offshore wind development. Companies like XEMC Windpower Co Ltd, CSIC (Chongqing) Haizhuang Windpower Equipment Co Ltd, and Shanghai Electric Group Co Ltd have been continuously supplying wind turbines with a turbine size of more than 4MW for projects in the East China Sea. Australia also has a higher capacity factor than the global average; as a result, the market is a target for turbines with a higher nameplate capacity. Companies like Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA, and GE Renewable Energy have supplied turbines with capacity of more than 3MW.
In terms of growth of turbine size, the North American market has been slightly slow. The average turbine size in the region at the end of 2017 was 2.36MW, a jump of 32% from the 2010 level. In the US, the number of years required to receive approvals to build wind farms in coastal areas is more than that in the Midwestern region. As a result, coastal areas, which witness regular sea breezes, do not see turbine suppliers installing turbines in the multi-MW segment. In 2017, companies like Nordex SE, GE Renewable Energy, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA supplied turbines with a nameplate capacity of more than 2.5MW in non-coastal states like Iowa, Michigan, and Oklahoma and non-coastal areas of Texas. In Mexico, Vestas Wind Systems A/S has been supplying turbines with a nameplate capacity of 3 MW and above since 2015. The region of Tamaulipas witnessed projects going online in 2017 using Vestas’ V112-3.3MW and V117-3.3MW IEC IIA turbines. Prior to 2017, the region had Vestas turbines with a nameplate capacity of 1.8MW. Canada has been slow in terms of growth in average turbine size. The country witnessed turbines with a nameplate capacity of 3 MW coming online prior to 2010. Vestas Wind Systems A/S has been supplying its V90-3.0 MW turbines prior to 2010. Since 2010, the average turbine size in the country has been witnessing growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6%.
South Africa is the major wind market in the Middle East and Africa, driven by the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP). Since 2011, wind installation in the country has been driven by the REIPPP. As per the program, the state-run utility Eskom Holdings will enter into a power purchase agreement with the selected independent power producer for a period of 20 years. With the benefit of a continuous flow of income, the developers aim to install turbines with higher nameplate capacity in order to utilize the wind speed prevalent at class-I sites. The country has been witnessing turbines being supplied by Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Sinovel Wind Group Co Ltd with a nameplate capacity greater than 2.5MW since 2014. The average turbine size was 1.98MW at the end of 2017, a jump of 10% over 2010. Other countries which are active in wind power development are Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. Prior to 2010, these countries were supplied with wind turbines in the sub-MW class. Since 2011, these countries have been witnessing installations in the multi-MW class. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA has supplied its turbines in the 2.3MW series in Morocco, while GE Renewable Energy has supplied turbines in Ethiopia with a turbine rating of 1.67MW.
With the focus on offshore wind installations by countries like China and the US and the repowering of existing turbines with higher scale turbines at class-I sites in Germany, India etc., the average turbine size will continue to head northward.