Don Quixote battled windmills in a 1605 novel by Cervantes. The confused Spanish knight would likely think twice before attacking the Norwegian behemoth soon to be built. Photo: Sway

Building a cutting-edge wind turbine

31/03/2010 // The world’s largest wind turbine is to be built in Norway. Innovative technology will make the production of renewable energy far more efficient.

The windmill (the industry term is actually “wind turbine”) will feature a rotor diameter of 145 metres, which is some 25 m greater than the largest turbines in existence. Its 10-MW capacity means it will be able to generate roughly 70% more energy than current turbines in the same wind conditions, so that 25 of these turbines under the right wind conditions could satisfy the electricity needs of the 250,000 residents of Bergen, Norway’s second largest city. 

Efficient energy production

Developing technologies that drive down production costs is a key factor in exploiting the potential of wind power. This new wind turbine incorporates technology for reducing its weight and number of moving parts – yielding far higher energy efficiency and hence lower operational costs compared to turbines currently in use.

Norwegian cooperative project 

The project is the result of scientific collaboration between Norwegian research groups: the Trondheim company SmartMotor has played a major role in developing the turbine, and Bergen-based Sway will construct it.

Drawing on offshore know-how 

The turbine will be operating in the open sea, which means extensive expertise in offshore constructions will be needed. “Simply converting existing land-based technology from our hydropower industry, for instance, is not enough,” says Sway’s Michal Forland. “Production at sea entails completely different quality standards for materials and construction methods. Among other things, low turbine weight is crucial for keeping costs down and efficiency up.”

Critical experience from the oil industry

Construction of the turbine will take place at the water’s edge, so offshore techniques and vessels will also be utilised. The experience built up in Norway over nearly 40 years of recovering oil and gas from the seabed is proving invaluable in harnessing the wind as an environmentally friendly energy source.

Well-received by environmental organisations

“This is extremely good news, and we hope this is the springboard for converting the offshore supplier industry to new, future-oriented markets,” writes Marius Holm, Vice President of Bellona (www.bellona.no), on the environmental organisation’s website.

To be built in west-coast island community

The turbine will be built in the municipality of Øygarden in Hordaland County on Norway’s west coast. It will undergo a two-year test period there. Reaching some 160 metres above the sea surface, the world’s largest wind turbine will be spinning its rotor blades far above this municipality’s fascinating landscape of 546 islands, where the highest elevation is a mere 74 metres.

Global, timeless energy

The first windmills were fashioned 4,000 years ago in China to pump water for irrigation systems. Soon the largest “windmill” of all time will tower above the mouth of a fjord on the other side of the earth – powered by the same force.

Øygarden’s highest point is just 74 metres above sea level, so the world’s largest wind turbine will tower above the municipality’s islands – while generating enough electricity to supply 10,000 consumers. . Photo: Olav Martin Vik

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