light of the record-low prices that were bid for offshore
wind energy in Dutch auctions in late 2016. For 2017,
offshore wind projects are
expected to go online in the
UK and Germany. Plus, there
will be quite a lot of construction activity in Dutch waters
as the large offshore wind
farms slated for that market
begin construction. Because
offshore wind farms take up
to 5 years from announcement to completion, it’s fairly
easy to predict how that market will grow, said Sawyer.
Better Technology, Lower
Costs, Better Analytics
On the technology front,
NREL’s Lantz believes in 2017
the 3-MW turbine will become
standard outside of Europe.
“EU has had larger turbines for a number of years
but in North America and
other parts of the world the
2-MW class has been more
prominent,” he said.
NREL has been studying
the cost trends of the 3-MW
turbine and sees reductions
in costs in the near future.
“We have some evidence to
suggest that some manufacturers have been able to scale
turbines while reducing the
material intensity of the turbines and so that should suggest lower costs,” he said.
“We’ll see if that converts to
lower prices or if OEMs will try to capture some additional mar-
gin,” he added.
Larger turbines with lower costs means better wind econom-
ics for developers and the same is true in the offshore market, in
which Sawyer expects the 8-MW machine to become standard.
“I think we are going to see virtually exclusive deployment of
the 8-MW series for offshore which is much sooner than every-
one expected,” he said. Vestas, Siemens, GE and Adwen (a joint
venture between AREVA and Gamesa) all have 8-MW machines
either on the market or close to being commercially available.
Another technological advance that we’ll see more of in 2017
according to most analysts is better wind farm analytics. Brian
Carey, US Cleantech Advisory Leader at PwC believes more devel-
opers will leverage data to optimize positioning of the wind tur-
bines. Sawyer agrees.
“The technology that is very cool is the ability to model the air-
fow over the entire wind farm offshore using Doppler radar,” he
explained. Up till now developers had been able to model the wind
fow over one particular turbine to maximize its output but with
new technology they can now look at the wind farm as a whole.
DONG Energy is reportedly using this new approach, said Sawyer.
Another innovation to keep an eye on for the onshore wind
market will be a move to make wind turbines more grid friend-
ly. Some turbines now have the ability to provide reactive power
even when they are not spinning, said Sawyer.
“I would imagine other than the continued trend toward tall-
er towers, longer blades and down rated generators to increase
capacity factors and lower cut-in speeds, making turbine more
grid friendly would be the main technology evolution,” he said.
NREL’s Lantz said there is quite a lot of innovation in the wind
turbine market mostly driven by the ferce competition from the
low cost of natural gas and solar PV. This competition is forcing manufacturers to focus on price reductions and how to meet
their fve-year goals ahead of time, said Lantz.
“So there is reason for optimism even as we take a ‘wait and
see’ position on the policy realm,” he said.
GWEC keeps a close eye on policies that promote wind power
growth across the world. According to Sawyer market reform in
China is needed in order to address the problem of curtailment,
which can occur due to transmission inadequacy, minimum