Tag Archives: wind turbines

Thomas Edison Marvels at Giant Wind Machines

Thomas Edison Marvels at Giant Wind Machines

Something big is coming….soon….a wind turbine of truly gigantic proportions.

As the world looks to the oceans for the location of wind farms, it becomes obvious the costs for such farms will be expensive, given the difficulty of offshore installations. It behooves designers to install large wind machines to reduce the total number of machines, and thus all the balance of plant costs associated with linking a large number of machines together. This is the key idea behind GE’s new very large wind turbine, the Haliade-X class of turbines.

[Image Source: www.ge.com/renewableenergy/wind-energy/turbines/haliade-x-offshore-turbine]

Heretofore, large wind turbines were considered to be approximately 5-9 MW in size. However, the Haliade-X class of machines is a hefty 12 MW in size; which means its blades must be quite long to harvest large amounts of energy from the steady winds one encounters several miles offshore. Check out this large wind turbine here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybh7NwZv7c8).

Each new turbine when fully operational can generate 45% more energy than contemporary machines, supplying about 16,000 homes with electricity. Its capacity factor is also greater than contemporary machines, which means it can harvest more wind and usefully convert it to electricity. This makes offshore wind farms more compact and cheaper.

Here are the impressive physical particulars:

Each blade is longer than a football field, with a total rotor diameter of 722 feet [220 m]. Keep in mind that while city blocks vary in length around the U.S., a length of 600-800 feet is not unusual in older established towns and cities. The blades of the Haliade-X is almost at the upper end of this range. Imagine your block rotating in the air! Just to put this in perspective, modern day aircraft carriers are typically 1,000  feet in length.

The area swept out by the rotor blades is equivalent to 7 football fields…truly gigantic. Those football fields all together occupy 9.2 acres. Again….the useful comparison to an aircraft carrier, whose flight deck is on the order of 4.5 acres—so the total rotor swept area of a Haliade-X wind turbine is twice the area of a modern aircraft carrier!

The total height of the turbine assembly to water line is 853 feet, or 3 times the total height of the famous Flatiron Building in lower New York City; and approaching the height of the Chrysler Building and the Eiffel Tower.

[Image Source: www.windpoweroffshore.com/article/1458364/ge-unveils-12mw-offshore-turbine-updated]

To facilitate the capture of large amounts of wind (and solar) energy will require large surface areas, for which there is no getting around this. Efforts like that of GE’s new Haliade-X wind machine is a serious engineering response to this challenge. Probably in the next two years, look for the installation of this new turbine.

Thomas Edison said … “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.
Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Wind Power from GE® and Google®


The fastest growing alternate energy source is wind power. It has made huge strides in the last 10 years, both nationally and internationally. Predominantly, the big impact of wind turbines is in the large, utility scale, installations…machines capable of producing megawatts (MW) of power. These are physically large machines. The steel pole upon which the wind turbine generator and propellers are installed may be on the order of 200-250 feet tall. Atop this sits propellers whose tip-to-tip measurement can be as large as a football field. Large propeller areas are required because while the planet’s wind energy is free, it is quite dispersed, and must be collected over a rather large swept rotor area. Depending upon design, a utility size wind turbine is generally capable of producing 765 kW-2.5 MW….with new prototypes and designs aiming for the 4-6 MW size range.

To run effectively and economically, wind turbines should be located in areas where the wind blows, on a sustained basis, at least 12 miles per hour; and ideally, 20 miles per hour or greater. The more a wind turbine operates, and the higher the wind speed, the cheaper the electricity it generates. In unusually high wind speeds, large wind turbines safely shut down to avoid damage.

Wind turbines can be clustered over large open land areas generally known as wind farms. Here the turbines can be spaced apart by 10-20 rotor diameters so the machines will not interfere with each other. Turbines are also sometimes located across the ridge line of hills and mountains, or along shore areas near large bodies of water where naturally high wind speeds may result. [See GE wind turbine photos below.] Canyon passes can likewise provide a natural funneling effect of wind speeds.

History of Wind Power Development

Worldwide, in total, there are about 158,000 MW of wind energy now in operation. Currently the U.S. is the leader in wind energy generation, with 35,000 MW of capacity; but because of the huge existing base of conventional electric power generation, 1,000,000 MW already on-line, this currently translates to only about 2-3% or so of all U.S. electric generation being supplied from wind. This may grow quite a bit more as many states are mandating that electric utilities use solar and wind energy technologies in their power generation mix. Here is how U.S wind installation capacity in MW grew since 2005:

2005                     9,000
2006                      12,000
2007                      17,000
2008                      25,000
2009                      35,000

As we might expect, the windy plains states tend to dominate the wind turbine rankings with wide open spaces, little native population, and relatively good wind conditions. Large machines and wind farms can be built there. However, there will be costs to get this energy out to consumers who do not live nearby, or where convenient connections to an existing power grid may not be available.

Few Atlantic coast states, where a great deal of the nation’s electric load resides, can take advantage of wind power in a big way. It will be a challenge to bring wind power to these energy hungry states, or to find sites within those states where some modest wind energy farms may be constructed. It is possible we may see wind turbines located off coastal states that can make use of often strong and steady wind speeds several miles offshore. In mid-October, Google announced an almost 38% equity investment in a revolutionary $5 billion transmission system for interconnecting Atlantic Seaboard offshore wind turbines. This 350-mile underwater backbone would first provide a superhighway to bring power from the Virginia area to New Jersey; and then allow soon thereafter for offshore wind turbines to conveniently connect into the electricity superhighway as well. Permission for the off-shore wind farms still must be obtained from the coastal states.

GE is one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers, with over 13,500 wind turbine installations worldwide, ranging from 1.5 to 4.0 megawatts in size. Caithness Energy LLC and GE are teaming up at the Shepherds Flat Wind Project in Oregon to establish a massive 845-megawatt wind-powered energy generating facility located immediately south of the Columbia River. The wind farm output is enough to provide electricity to 235,000 homes. It will be the constructed between 2010 and 2012 and consist of 338 of GE’s 2.5xl turbines, making it the first of its type to be deployed in North America. The wind facility will be the largest in the world, and avoid 1,215,991 tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 212,141 passenger vehicles.

“There is no substitute for hard work.”

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