The Mantra of the wind industry during the recent downturn in the market has been "back to basics." That is, focus on R&D and drive down costs.
For many years, turbine vendors could sell pretty much anything because demand was so strong. As the market has softened and gotten more crowded, companies are focusing heavily on improving technologies and differentiating their products.
As part of this trend, a couple new technology testing centers have opened up in Europe.
The wind turbine manufacturer REpower Systems just completed a testing center for large turbines in northern Germany this week. The center will employ around 470 employees. REpower has been working on very large turbines for some time, with models ranging from 2 MW all the way up to 6 MW. The company will focus on new materials, future turbine models and, most importantly, on improving the performance of existing onshore and offshore models.
A bit further to the North in Denmark, the Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy (Risø) is building a new testing center for monitoring and improving very large turbines.
Denmark is a pioneer and world leader in the development of wind. Danish companies built some of the most reliable machines ever installed in the late 70's and early 80's. Danish officials hope to keep the country a leader by continuing research at the forefront of new technologies.
The test center will be 4 kilometers in length – big enough to handle the monitoring of numerous mega-wind turbines up to 250 meters in height. The new facility will be a big improvement over the existing Risø test center, which can only handle turbines up to 160 meters tall.
As the turbines grow and R&D becomes more expensive, so too will testing centers like these.
Below is a video of the largest wind turbine in the world, the Enercon E-126, a 7 MW turbine with a rotor diameter of 126 meters.