Wind turbines could be producing three times 'standard' power

Wind turbines generating power of up to 20 megawatts are now 'realistic', according to a report published today (March 15).

The report, released at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) 2011 conference in Brussels, can be be read here.

The UpWind project looks at the design limits of 'upscaling' wind turbines to 20 megawatt, from the standard five which most currently produce.

It found rotor diameters of around 200 metres, compared to some 120 metres on today's standard five-megawatt turbines would allow huge increases in power generation.

The report also predicts wind energy will meet 26-34% of Europe's electricity demand power by 2030.

It also makes a further prediction of almost as much electricity coming from offshore turbines as from those onshore.

"UpWind found making a 20megawatt machine is not as simple as just upscaling today's 5 MW turbines," says Jos Beurskens of the Dutch Energy Research Centre, who led the project.

"We identified key innovations to the design, materials and way the turbine is operated."

The main innovations UpWind suggests for a 20 megawatts wind turbine are:


  • Lowering fatigue loads on blades allows longer and lighter blades to be built. Loads can be lowered in the ways listed below:
  • Fore-bending blades and using more flexible materials - this could lower fatigue loads by 10%.
  • Using individual blade control - this could lower fatigue loads by 20-30%.
  • Putting the blade in two sections (like an aeroplane wing), allowing each to be controlled separately - this could lower fatigue loads by 15%. It also makes it easier to transport the blade.


  • The future smart wind turbine would be able to adapt its position and the pitch of its blade to local wind conditions.

Wind farm layout

  • Lowering the power output of the first row of turbines allows for higher overall wind farm efficiency.

Control and maintenance

  • Putting sensors on one wind turbine allows the fatigue loading on the other turbines to be estimated if the relationship of fatigue loading between the wind turbines is known.
  • Loads can be alleviated preventatively by evaluating the upcoming gust before it arrives at the turbine. A nacelle-mounted LIDAR is sufficiently accurate for wind energy applications.

Luke Walsh


| wind energy


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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