Big blades give edge to Vestas as Dane unveils world’s largest onshore wind turbine

Danish wind OEM Vestas has unveiled the largest onshore turbine on the market today, the 7.2MW V172, which has been devised for low and medium wind speeds in a wide range of different geographies.

The new model, engineered to deliver a 12% boost to annual energy production (AEP) compared to the turbine maker’s V162-6.2MW, will feature flexible power ratings of 7.2MW, 6.8MW and 6.5MW and “expanded site applicability” for all environmental conditions, with cold-climate packages available for northern environments and an optional larger so-called CoolerTop for high-temperature locations.

The new giant, the latest in Vestas’ line of upscaled ultra-large models based on the company’s modularised EnVentus concept, supplants German OEM Enercon’s now longer manufactured 7.5MW machine.

“The launch of this model advances the narratives [seen since the unveiling of the EnVentus concept in 2019],” said Vestas CTO Anders Nielsen, speaking with Recharge ahead of the launch.

“We are creating another performance-step based on the same platform, the same architecture as we had with the 6.8[MW model], which was in turn coming out of the 6.2[MW machine] and so on. It’s all building on the upscaling of the modularised system with a different blade set.”

The supersize one-piece 84-metre-long blades are key, creating a swept area of 23,240m2. But the inner workings of the V172-7.2MW unlock the full power of the machine, which is based on Vestas’ modularisation philosophy where the nacelle structure is divided into compartments “dimensionally designed to correspond to general industry standards for road, rail and ocean transport” to streamline project logistics.

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“This [model] demonstrates how our modular product development can enable customisable solutions, suited to any environment. It’s also a signal for how we can support our customers as a long-term partner through the imminent energy transformation, able to meet their needs today, as well as in the future”, said Nielsen.

“Size isn’t everything. But we are stretching the envelop further with this design… and when it comes to certain sites in certain locations — particularly if you are constrained by the number of pads [the foundations], then how you capture AEP is important and the V172 is putting money in the wind project developer’s pocket.”

Vestas CTO Anders Nielsen Photo: Vestas

Northern Europe and Scandinavia is “one of the focus markets” for the design, which has four tower height options ranging from 112-175 metres, Nielsen adds, but the V172’s “use cases” are geographically varied.

“Higher towers allow us to capture more [wind energy]. There are a number of countries around the world where you don’t have tip-height restrictions and this [V172] is an opportunity for developers in these places.”

The EnVentus concept — which has an orderbook totalling more 6GW of units across 14 different markets on four continents — was devised by Vestas to “build closer alignment” between its onshore and offshore platforms, with the V172 and the V162 sharing the modularised nacelle architecture with the the 5-6MW platforms and OEM’s gigantic 15MW V236 offshore machine alike.

“The learning we get more and more as we get closer to serial production is that joining-up the architecture [of its onshore and offshore concepts] is giving up a lot of advantages, [not least] that we get to try these out onshore before we move to sea and with this some stability in the quality improvement,” said Nielsen.

Nielsen hopes the other main progress seen from the cross-over of onshore and offshore designs is in the manufacturing. “Even the conservative forecasts see a strong upswing in the market [for turbines] in the next five years. The dynamics are changing so fast,” he stated.

“The talk of energy independence adds fuel to that discussion: how much faster can we ramp up [the manufacture and deployment of turbines] around the world… as we speed up decarbonisation globally.”

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