Vestas Chief Unveils New 7-Megawatt Offshore Wind Turbine

Vestas Wind Systems A/S today unveiled a new 7-megawatt wind turbine aimed at helping the Danish company vie with Siemens AG (SIE) of Germany for the biggest share of the offshore wind power market.

The new V164 machine is the first in Vestas’s history specifically designed for offshore wind, Chief Executive Officer Ditlev Engel said in London. Video at Vestas’s presentation showed the blades will sweep an area three times the size of the football field at Wembley Stadium. The turbines will be taller than the London tower known as the Gherkin, and that part of the machine above the waves will weigh 800 tons.

Vestas and Munich-based Siemens are vying for supremacy in the offshore wind market. Of the 3,045 megawatts of installed sea-based wind capacity in Europe by the end of last year, 1,391 megawatts are from Vestas machines while Siemens has 1,357 megawatts, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data. Once demand is enough, a new plant will be built to make the machines at a site that has yet to be chosen, Engel said.

“The facility, wherever it is placed, will need to serve the European market,” Engel said in an interview. “It’ll be one facility servicing Europe. The U.K. has the largest demand but there are other countries now working to update their offshore plans. You have a whole cluster of countries around the North Sea,” he said, citing the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Scandinavia.

‘Vote of Confidence’

"This is a vote of confidence in the offshore wind sector, and if the conditions are right could bring significant investment to the U.K.," Gordon Edge, director of policy at the industry lobby group RenewableUK, said in an e-mailed statement.

Vestas plans to complete the turbine design and begin construction of a first prototype in the fourth quarter of next year. Serial production at the new plant would start in the first quarter of 2015. First, Vestas needs order commitments from customers, and they in turn need governments to provide long-term clarity on incentives for offshore wind, Engel said.

“Our customers need the visibility and clarity from government in order to make the commitment to us,” Engel said. “We’re not going to put it on the market in the old-fashioned way -- meaning that you build the plant and hope to sell them. Now the capital commitment is so huge, where it’s like the big capital-goods companies. We say ‘you buy, and we’ll make it.’”

The new turbine has more than twice the capacity of the V90 and V112 models currently made for offshore use by the Randers, Denmark-based company. Those models also have onshore versions. It’s the single largest research and development investment Vestas has made, Engel said, declining to give further details.

‘Visible Order Pipeline’

“Such an investment is not something we’d go into without seeing a visible order pipeline,” Engel said.

New installations of offshore wind turbines may surge 70 percent this year, topping 2010’s record 51 percent gain, the European Wind Energy Association said on Jan. 31. The U.K. has more than 40 percent of the total, and in January 2010 awarded licenses for 32.2 gigawatts of offshore wind projects to companies including Centrica Plc (CNA), RWE AG (RWE) and Statoil ASA. (STL)

Siemens, Spain’s Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA and General Electric Co. (GE) each plan research centers and manufacturing hubs in Britain. Vestas plans to build the prototype blades for the V164 at its research facility on the Isle of Wight, southern England, head of technology research and development Finn Stroem Madsen said.

Each new Vestas turbine will be able to provide electricity for 6,500 homes, Madsen said. The turbine has a greater capacity to generate electricity than any machine currently working at sea, according to New Energy Finance. Companies including REpower Systems AG (RPW) and Areva Wind GmbH have commercialized 5- megawatt offshore turbines and the German manufacturer Enercon GmbH has a land-based 7.5-megawatt generator.

‘Can Go Bigger’

“There is basically no limit on how big wind turbines can go,” Madsen said in an interview. “I expect it will go bigger but this one will certainly see us beyond 2020.”

Vestas shares climbed 2.6 percent today in Copenhagen trading, boosting their gains this year to 28 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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