The MySE 16.0-242 is a giant 242 metres tall, and at 16 megawatts, it’s capable of powering 20,000 homes with three 118m blades, that will sweep across an area the size of six football pitches.
It takes the record for the biggest turbine from GE’s Haliade-X turbines, which are being built off the east coast of the United States. When completed next year, the new turbine will generate 80 GWh of electricity, 45 per cent more than the previous model despite only a 19 per cent increase in diameter and swept area.
The bigger turbines get, the more efficient they are – a fact that’s driven an increase in size from around 30 metres in the 1990s to almost 300m today.
“Larger and longer turbine blades mean greater aerodynamic efficiency,” writes Con Doolan, a professor at the school of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at UNSW, in The Conversation.
“Creating more power in one turbine means less energy is lost as it is moved into the transmission system, and from there into the electrical generator. The economies of scale provide an overwhelming push for wind energy companies to develop larger rotor blades.”
But the push for size comes with engineering challenges. Longer blades are more flexible than shorter ones, creating vibration which – if left uncontrolled – can affect performance and reduce the life of parts. The increased power generated puts greater load on the gearbox and transmission, and stronger support towers and foundations are required too.
“Environmental effects, noise, visual impacts and other community concerns all need to be considered, as with any large infrastructure project,” writes Doolan. “But wind turbines are one of the most cost-effective and technologically sophisticated forms of renewable energy, and as the developed world comes to grips with climate change we will only see more of them.”
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