General Electric is testing a massive new offshore wind turbine with the potential to power a town of 12,000 homes, according to Stanley Reed of the New York Times. The machine has a turning diameter of over 200 yards and, in its final design, will be taller than any building in mainland Europe.
Offshore wind technology promises clean, efficient energy production and has grown rapidly in the past two decades as major energy companies look to diversify their offerings. Turbine manufacturers like GE and Siemens Gamesa have been racing to produce bigger and bigger turbines to meet rising demand and get more energy out of each installation. The launch of the outsized GM prototype, which can produce up to 13 megawatts, has jolted the industry, changing the calculations of manufacturers and wind farm developers. Installed in the ocean, the turbines can capture more reliable breezes than on land and will have to contend with fewer challenges from neighboring landowners.
The key to the new turbine’s success is the material: a light, strong, and flexible combination of carbon fiber and glass fiber invented by Danish blade maker LM Wind Power, a GE subsidiary. Now that the prototype is operational, GE must figure out how to scale up the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of the turbines in the marine environment.