Vestas May Expand Even Faster Onshore By Not Aiming For Even Bigger Wind Turbines

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A couple of years ago when I visited the gigantic wind turbine test site at Østerild in northern Denmark, I wondered how big these things would end up being. It seems the efficiency limit is about to be within reach, and while this may not be the case in technical terms, it just might be in manufacturing, logistical, and economic terms.

Two Major Wins For Vestas

This week Vestas announced two major orders in Germany and Lithuania. The press release for the German order states that Vestas will deliver, commission, and service eight V162-5.6 MW wind turbines. They are about the same size as the ones I saw tested at Østerild. Sulai Fahimi, Vestas Vice President of Sales Central Europe, states: “We are very pleased to have been selected to supply our onshore turbines for the Dollenkamp project as it highlights the importance of onshore wind in the German energy transition.”

The press release for the Lithuanian order states that Vestas will deliver, commission, and service 14 of the slightly more powerful V162-6.2 MW wind turbines. The two orders represent a combined capacity of 152 MW. Jens Pinderup, Vice President of Sales East at Vestas NCE, states: “The entire area offers huge potential for wind energy projects, and we are proud that our EnVentus wind turbines offers a competitive solution for our customers while helping to decarbonise the energy system in the Baltic region.”

Is Bigger Always Better?

These Vestas V162 turbines with a rotor diameter of 162 meters (531 feet) is one of the bigger models in Vestas’ onshore catalog, only slightly smaller than the V172 which is better suited for lower average wind speeds. Still, these machines seem dwarfed by the 15 MW monster Vestas offers offshore, the V236. So, will onshore turbines eventually be as big as offshore turbines?

A piece in dr.dk has some interesting views on the subject. The wind turbine industry says the world needs more — not bigger — turbines. Deputy Director of Vestas Morten Dyrholm states: “We have reached a point where we must take a break in the development of larger turbines. We should not keep sending bigger and bigger turbines onto the market. There is a need to mass produce and standardize.”

According to Sydbank Denmark, the wind turbine industry needs to get back to making money fast. Here is its list of how much the big players lost in 2023:

  • Siemens Gamesa: 385 billion DKK ($56.92 billion)
  • General Electric: 37 billion DKK ($5.47 billion)
  • Nordex: 10 billion DKK ($1.48 billion)
  • Vestas: Expects no loss/gain, but lost 11.7 billion DKK ($1.73 billion) in 2022

Equity analysis manager Jacob Pedersen from Sydbank states: “There is no doubt that if the wind turbine manufacturers are to get back on track, so that they can invest in more production facilities, so that we can get more wind turbines — then it also requires that this arms race with constantly making bigger wind turbines comes to an end.”

Henrik Stiesdal, one of the pioneers in the Danish wind turbine adventure, former head of development at Bonus Energy and former technical director at Siemens Wind Power, proposes that EU legislation should help the industry to limit the height of wind turbines. Specifically, Henrik Stiesdal proposes a maximum height of approximately 300 metres (984 feet). “The authorities have to say that there is an upper limit: make them cheaper and more efficient, but don’t make them higher than a certain size,” he says.

At the industry organization Green Power Denmark, deputy managing director Jan Hylleberg has sympathy for the proposal. But he doubts that is realistic. “I find it difficult to see how [this proposal] could function in a sector as global as this,” he says.


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