As Keith Johnson put it in the blog entry at the Wall Street Journal, “Plenty of clean tech’s advances are all about glitz. But sometimes the real advances come when companies start looking down market,” he meant that developing into the less than prime locations can pay off with better technology that works both in the less optimum circumstances but will “trickle up” market, too.

Siemens Energy announced the availability of the SWT-2.3-101 wind turbine, which is suited to sites with low to medium wind speeds. With a rotor diameter of 101 meters, the new wind turbine will provide more power at lower wind speeds, significantly increasing the return on investment of wind farms.

Siemens Low Wind Speed Turbine. Click image for more.

Siemens Low Wind Speed Turbine. Click image for more.

Siemens’ new machine, for example, reaches full output of 2.3-megawatts at familiar wind speed of 12 meters per second or only 26.6 miles an hour. That’s a slower wind speed than other machines in the Siemens line, and a lot slower than the wind speeds required by rival machines such as those made by Denmark’s Vestas and Spain’s Gamesa.

On the other hand General Electric has unveiled its new 2.5-megawatt turbine that operates at full capacity with winds of 28 miles per hour. Its older workhorse, a 1.5-megawatt machine, hits full stride at the same speed as Siemens’ new wind turbine.

The importance is in the low wind speed numbers and the overall size. For those who’ve driven across Iowa and seen the huge fields of huge wind turbines that can be seen for miles off in the high wind corridors, the opportunity to go renewable and with less obtrusive designs bodes for a greatly increased market. Yet by no means is the 2.3 MW size all that small.

With a rotor diameter of 101 meters, the new wind turbine will provide more power at lower wind speeds, significantly increasing the return on investment of wind farms that can be located in the less than optimal locations. There is a lot more wind to be had than just in the fastest wind locations.

Siemens expects low to medium wind market segments to grow substantially in the future. The low-wind market, alone, is expected to represent one third of the total global wind power market in the coming years.

Another plus of the Siemens designs are the proprietary “IntegralBlade” manufacturing process, which casts blades in one piece in a closed process. This unique process is said to eliminate weaknesses from the glue processes used in the manufacturing of traditional blades. A rugged structural design, combined with automatic lubrication systems, internal climate control and a simple generator system without commutator slip rings, contributes to providing exceptional reliability.

For consumers of electrical power Siemens offers what one would expect to be a low operating cost. With the lower wind speed needed much more territory becomes able to participate in the power generation business. Those opportunities mean a lot out in the rural areas where incomes lag behind metropolitan areas. The new versatility for locating does more than offer opportunities, there’s more location flexibility, and better investment returns with planning for longer wind operating periods.

With a better than 50% productivity increase at 26.6 mph over the now aged GE 1.5 MW unit one has to wonder what plans might come to upgrade some older wind farms.

Just to poke a little fun at the WSJs Keith Johnson I might point out that with the newly improved technology coming to much more area in a more compact size maybe saying “looking down market” is the reverse of what’s true. That leads one to wonder how far off the really good product at an individual’s capital investment zone for the rural landowner might be. Lots more farmers can lease a wind location soon along with growing food and fuel.

The best part is that the total expected electrical production from wind has greatly increased. All those projections using the optimal wind zones just became obsolete.


6 Comments so far

  1. | FT Energy Source | The Source: Gazprom, Eni and Enel; Gulf of Mexico leases; US CO2 curbs; world oil demand; carbon tariffs on March 25, 2009 6:24 AM

    […] and GE’s new turbines reach full output at lower wind speeds, opening up new areas as suitable for wind farms (New Energy and […]

  2. Keith Jansen on March 25, 2009 9:52 AM

    Places that devote much of their energy budget to building wind capacity are having trouble balancing their capacity with their load. One simply can’t count on the wind blowing at any given time. When you force power utilities to invest in forms of energy that are inherently unreliable, problems arise.

  3. Anonymous on March 25, 2009 4:56 PM

    High altitude wind is the only kind that makes sense.

  4. Dave Bertagna on May 21, 2011 8:06 PM

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  6. Stacia Aipopo on September 19, 2011 8:07 PM

    Great read. Thanks for the info!

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