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Denmark’s Dong Energy banks on larger offshore turbines

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A ship sails past the Barrow offshore 90 megawatt wind farm, developed by British and Danish energy groups Centrica and Dong Energy, off the coast of Cumbria, England. (Photo: Reuters)

PARIS, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Dong Energy, Europe’s largest offshore wind farm developer, plans to make the switch to giant wind turbines in a move that could signal a breakthrough for a new generation of products.

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The mega-machines, double the size of the current generation, have not been a commercial success so far.

However, Danish utility Dong in August signed the first order for 32 new 8 megawatt (MW) offshore turbines developed by Denmark’s Vestas and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Dong’s decision to favour the larger format is the consequence of a relentless drive to cut costs which it says is essential to the survival of the subsidy-dependent industry. Dong is putting pressure on suppliers to cut offshore wind costs to 100 euros per megawatt/hour for investment decisions taken in 2020, from about 125 euros now and 160 euros a few years ago. The August deal was for the relatively small British 256 MW Burbo Bank farm, which Dong hopes to start building in 2016. But its turbine choice for three much larger British windfarm projects could set the tone for the sector — the 580 Race Bank, 660 MW Walney Extension and the 1200 MW Hornsea project, which will be world’s largest.

“We prefer bigger turbines, 5 megawatts or more, going forward as they are a big lever in reducing costs,” Samuel Leupold, CEO of Dong Energy’s wind division, told Reuters.
Dong has not yet received building permission for all three British projects nor has it chosen the turbines, but the firm is unlikely to go back to the industry-standard 3.6 MW Siemens turbines it operates in most of its wind farms.

On two wind farms under construction, Westermost Rough in Britain and Gode Wind in Germany, Dong is installing huge 6 MW Siemens turbines, but with several manufacturers now developing even bigger machines, Dong is ready to diversify suppliers.

“Siemens was the first one with a good product for offshore, that is why we had large contracts with them. However, we are absolutely aware that in the future we do not want to rely on only one supplier,” Leupold said.

The jumbo turbines — the 8 MW Vestas has a 164-metre rotor diameter — are cheaper to install as utilities need to build only one foundation and lay one subsea cable instead of two for roughly the same power as two medium-size turbines.

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