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The big debate

The most talked-about feature in PES Wind returns, with a fresh selection of questions for the industry’s most incisive and intelligent commentators. Their answers may differ, but rest assured that you’re getting the very best analysis that the industry can provide.

PES: Over the next five years, what increases in the efficiency of wind turbines can we realistically expect?
Marc Schmitz: China produces turbines for a cost price that is 40-50 per cent lower than the cost price for turbines in Europe. Although the quality of these Chinese
turbines is far from European quality levels, this is often compensated for by strong supplier guarantees.

In offshore wind, the development of the various grid connections between large offshore wind farms in the UK, Scandinavia and Continental Europe will lower electricity cost due to a better balanced energy supply. Furthermore, logistics and the physical supply chain are key in efficiency improvements. Large and expensive vessels are currently not efficiently used and have long down-time, which causes a lot of wasted capital. There is much to be gained from better planning and organisation to make the construction and operation process of a wind farm more efficient.

Bruce Valpy: In themselves, turbines are only becoming slightly more efficient. If you judge efficiency as how much energy there is in the wind, the turbines are able to extract an amazing amount of energy out of the wind, a much bigger percentage of energy than you would extract from a lump of coal in a coal-fired power station. Aerodynamics and electrical efficiencies will develop a little bit more, but efficiencies haven’t been rising much in recent times and won’t rise that
much more.

The most helpful metric for us is cost of energy. As the energy is free out there in the wind, it doesn’t matter so much if you extract a little bit more or a little bit less of it. Cost of energy over the last 20 years has dropped significantly and we see plenty of technical and supply chain innovations coming over the next 10 years that mean that this trend will continue.


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