General Electric hit a milestone today by shipping their 10,000th 1.5 MW turbine to the Ashtabula Wind Energy Center, a wind farm in North Dakota run by FPL Energy. It’s a pretty impressive figure, considering the fact that GE only entered this market six years ago. To get a better idea of where GE and the wind industry are going from here, EcoGeek sat down with Victor Abate, VP of Renewable Energy at GE to see what he had to say:
10,000 turbines – what does this mean for the wind industry?
When you have 10,000 turbines of the same megawatt class, that really provides a tremendous amount of quality to the industry. With renewable energy the fuel is free, and so in order to measure performance you really need to look at how well the asset (in this case, the turbines) runs over the course of their lifetime.
Why is GE pushing the 1.5 MW turbine more than the higher megawatt models they produce?
A couple reasons, really. It’s more cost effective, first of all. More importantly, though, that model is reliable. The fact that we have 10,000 units of the same platform allows us to guarantee quality from the factory, provide accurate cost information and effectively monitor their performance in the field. Think of how the auto industry has progressed using a similar mass production model.
Speaking of reliability, people often think of wind as an intermittent, unreliable power source. What can you tell them about availability – the percent of time that the turbine is actually generating power?
Today’s average availability is over 97%. Ten years ago that was 85%. When the fuel is free, every point of availability affects the customer’s return.
When we entered this business one of the first things we noticed was that there were too many models. To drive quality you need to focus on a machine and make it a workhorse. Our 1.5 MW models have the highest capacity factor in the industry. They are also flexible, which is important because logistics can be a big part of the cost. When you get to a 3 MW machine, the costs of logistics can be 20% of the project
So you think we are going to see more of these models in the future?
Oh yeah. This one’s going to continue to grow. Just to calibrate you, when we entered the business in 2002 we had 1,000 turbines by 2003, 5,000 by 2006 and now 10,000.
Well that’s the kind of growth curve people like to see. What are some benchmarks you’d like to hit in the next years?
What we’re focused on now is taking this model and globalizing it. We just invested $100 million into a new 2.5 MW machine that we’re marketing in Europe, where land is more constrained and we have a gigawatt of orders. As for the US, we’re looking for ways to improve the performance of the units already installed by upgrading the components in ways that will generate more revenue. We’re taking all the opportunities to advance this fleet over time
written by TorahMike, November 17, 2008
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