In just over three months’ time thousands of wind energy professionals will gather in Vienna alongside EU and national level decision makers, financeers, technology specialists and others at the European Wind Energy Association’s Annual Event, EWEA 2013.
But what will everybody be talking about at the event? Yesterday, I spoke to some of the conference’s lead session chairs to get a glimpse of just one of the topics that will make Vienna buzz next February…
Turbine technology – just how big can turbines get? Now that the 5 MW barrier has been broken, what’s the next step? While some said the “sky is the limit” others pointed to practicalities like the ability to transport large turbine components, especially offshore. No vessel in the world has yet been designed to transport the largest of turbines one insider told me. Others noted that onshore, turbine size probably wouldn’t get much bigger due to possible public acceptance issues.
And it’s not just the size of turbines that is on the technology-specialists minds, it’s also whether a turbine has gears or uses permanent magnets, and speakers were clearly excited about technological developments that the future holds and are yet to be discovered.
Meanwhile the “threat” or “opportunity” posed by the rise of the Chinese wind energy sector came up for discussion with some claiming that it won’t take long before the Chinese equal Europe on turbine technology, while others said “leaping” from 1.5 MW turbines to 5 MW turbines in the space of a few years is a high-risk approach. It’s not just China that the European wind energy sector needs to keep a close eye on; one speaker said that turbines produced in India are almost on a par with European turbines, while another pointed to rapid expansion in wind in Korea.
Challenges still remain for the onshore wind energy sector – like designing the right turbine for remote or mountainous regions, and continually improving turbine efficiency – but most of the excitement was directly towards the offshore wind sector, in particular floating offshore. Speakers seemed to agree that commercial floating offshore wind farms would be up and running by 2020 or 2022. Watch this space.
Turbine technology is just one of the tracks at the upcoming EWEA 2013 conference in Vienna, to find out more about other areas keep following the EWEA blog…