This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
DOE to Develop Offshore Wind Turbine with General Electric
DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has signed a $27 million, multi-year contract with the General Electric Company (GE) to develop a new offshore wind power system over the next several years. DOE will provide about $8 million for the project, which was announced on March 9th. The goal of the project is to design, fabricate, and test an offshore wind turbine that could produce power at a cost of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, about half the current cost. GE expects the turbine to produce 5 to 7 megawatts of power, nearly double the capacity of GE's largest commercial wind turbine. The advanced wind system will include innovative foundations, construction techniques, rotor designs, and drivetrains, as well as electrical components designed for the harsh offshore environment. Offshore wind power installations could benefit populated U.S. coastal regions with high energy prices. See the press releases from GE and DOE and the "Offshore Wind Turbine Technology" page on the DOE Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program Web site.
A number of European wind turbine manufacturers are developing similar large offshore wind turbines. REPower, a German company, has been operating a 5-megawatt wind turbine at an onshore test site for more than a year, and plans to install two turbines off the Scottish coast this summer. The Engineering Business Limited (EB) will supply barge-mounted equipment to install the wind turbines fully assembled, at a location 23 miles from shore where the ocean is about 150 feet deep. Meanwhile, Enercon GmbH, another German company, has developed a 6-megawatt wind turbine prototype, while Vestas Wind Systems A/S, a Danish company, plans to market a 4.5-megawatt wind turbine by 2009. See the REPower Web site, the EB press release, and the Enercon and Vestas Web sites.
New technologies show promise for building larger wind turbines. For example, Owens Corning claims it has developed a reinforcement fabric for wind turbine blades that will allow wind blades to be 6 percent longer, producing 12 percent more power. The product will be commercially available late this year. See the Owens Corning press release.