New Turbine Technology: Key Players On and Offshore

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LONDON -- With annual market growth of almost 10 percent, and cumulative capacity growth of about 19 percent according to the latest figures from the Global Wind Energy Council, the wind sector continued to make robust progress in 2012. But while these figures suggest a relatively buoyant market for installations, perhaps a more accurate way to judge the health of the wind sector is to consider investment in R&D, and more specifically the products of that research, development and testing.

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Asia's Wind Technology Giants

Among the leading manufacturers based in Asia, Goldwind has been busy with certification of its flagship permanent magnet direct-drive platforms - it offers 1.5 MW, 2.5 MW, 3 MW machines. In February 2013, variants of both its 1.5 MW and 2.5 MW PMDD machines received ETL certification for US and Canadian markets from assessment group Intertek.

The 1.5 MW was initially certified in August 2011, the latest covers series products for low wind speed areas. In October 2012 the company announced that its 'ultra-low' wind 93 meter rotor diameter variant of its 1.5 MW had received domestic certification in China. This machine, the GW93/1500 was launched in April 2012 and is designed for IEC Class S, an annual average wind speed lower than 6.5 meters per second.

During the first half of 2012, a prototype was installed in Zhucheng, Shandong province. Based on operational field data, the company says the turbine can produce close to 9 percent more power on average than the earlier model GW87/1500 series turbines (designed for IEC III class) under the same conditions.

Goldwind unveiled its 6 MW prototype in 2011 and plans to mass produce the turbines by 2014. The company assembled several of the six MW offshore wind turbines this year and plans to put at least one into operation in the first half of 2012, the company said.

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Sinovel, another global giant, has continued with its testing program on its 2010-launched 5 MW and its 6 MW machine, launched in May 2011. Sinovel has commercially launched 1.5 MW and 3 MW and is in R&D and early production of its 5 MW and 6 MW turbines. The company is also moving to develop a 10 MW machine, with the project being listed in China's Central budgeting last autumn. The turbine is expected to be installed as a demonstration project in Jiangsu coastal area. China's National Development and Reform Commission awarded Sinovel a grant of RMB42 million (US$6.6 million) to accelerate commercialization of the 10 MW offshore design. Along with Sinovel both Goldwind and Guodian United Power are competing to develop a 10 MW machine after the project was deemed critical by the Chinese government last year.

Also in 2012, Sinovel teamed with Mita-Teknik to co-develop next generation control systems. Sinovel will purchase PLC hardware and the software with source code of the control systems from Mita-Teknik. The same year the company also filed a patent for a reactive voltage control system for a DFID wind generator. However, a fatal crane accident last autumn while attempting to lift a 5 MW wind turbine nacelle at the production facility in Gansu Province and continued wrangles with AMSC over intellectual property have rankled.

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