Is bigger better?


December 14, 2012

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Is bigger always better?

Most of the manufacturers certainly hope so. Vestas included. As it was at pains to remind us of earlier in the week.

In an update to a previous commercial agreement that it had signed with Danish utility Dong Energy, Vestas confirmed plans to push ahead with early-stage testing of its V164 8MW machine.

Shifting the testing onshore, rather than pursuing plans to operate it at Frederikshavn, as previously envisaged, Vestas confirmed that its partner would gain access to key operating data at an earlier stage and was quite naturally keen to emphasis its ambitions to pursue future commercial collaboration.

And well it might.

After all, Siemens Energy has significantly increased its dominance in the market over the past twelve months and the company has already begun field-testing of its 154-metre 6MW machine.

Quite apart from the recent lay off of 615 of its 1,650 strong US workforce, signalling further caution within North America, Siemens has moved quickly to consolidate its position within the European market. As such, for any competitor worth their salt, early-stage developer collaboration and exposure to research and development, and new technology, will prove key.

However, the rush towards multi-megawatt machines isn’t only the preserve of the Europeans. Something that Samsung Heavy Industries have been consistently demonstrating through the evolution and future deployment of its own 7MW machine.

While its twelve-turbine test project located off the coast of Jeju Island is still under construction, the successful operation of the site could provide a fresh twist to the evolution of the wider international market.

A twist that – for Europe, at least – would no doubt benefit from the early stage UK involvement of David Brown, a company that has designed the gearboxes for the mammoth, Korean-made machines.

A race to the to the top then? And with it, a return to more familiar ground?

Possibly. Although let’s not forget that the memories of Clipper’s failed 10MW ambitions are still pretty raw and that for many, the challenge of using smaller turbines to capitalise on lower wind speeds still presents significant room for future growth.

What’s more, with the likes of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries continuing to be linked with Vestas and with the Japanese company having made no secret of the fact that it’s looking for a multi-MW European growth, when it comes to future manufacturer ambition, there’s often more to early-stage testing than meets the eye.

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