Energy Transition

The giant, offshore Haliade X wind turbine could be the future of wind energy

The Haliade X wind turbine will produce 45% more energy than any other wind turbine.

The Haliade X wind turbine will produce 45% more energy than any other wind turbine. Image: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Rob Smith
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Energy Transition?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Energy Transition is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Decarbonizing Energy

Over twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), the world’s largest, Haliade X wind turbine will stand at more than 260 metres when measured from base to blade tip, with 220-metre diameter rotors, and generate enough clean energy for 16,000 European households.

And it’s all in the name of efficiency, as larger blades make turbines more resilient to variations in wind speed, says GE Renewable Energy general manager Vincent Schellings, whose team is developing the immense wind turbines.

Schellings says: “From a technology perspective, it seems like a stretch. But we know it’s doable. The beauty of the turbine is that it gives an edge over the competition. There’s nothing like this. Not even close.”

GE's Haliade X wind turbine

GE’s Haliade X wind turbine is over twice the size of the Statue of Liberty.
GE’s Haliade X wind turbine is over twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. Image: GE Reports

The sheer size of GE’s Haliade X wind turbine means you can catch a lot of wind, which is good for energy production, but the downside is that you need the support structure to keep the rotor up in the wind, Schellings says.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that as you scale the rotor size, the turbine costs will go up quicker than the incremental yields you get from the larger rotor.”

He says the team solved this problem with software, using algorithms to process data from the turbine and offset the high forces the wind produces. “We use software to control the pitch of the turbine and keep it in the wind. It helps us keep the size and the weight of the support structure under control,” Schellings says.

Software controls the pitch of Haliade X wind turbine and then angles it into the wind
Software controls the pitch of Haliade X wind turbine and then angles it into the wind Image: Tomas Kellner for GE Reports

The current largest operational turbine, developed as part of a joint venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Vestas, has a rotor diameter of 164 metres and a 9.5-megawatt generator.

The next largest, developed by Gamesa and Areva, has a rotor diameter of 180 metres and a blade length of 88.4 metres, but its eight-megawatt generator is smaller in comparison to the MHI/Vesta turbine.

Supersized and energy efficient

The Haliade X wind turbine will comprise of a 12-megawatt generator, sitting 150 metres above the sea, with each capable of producing 67 gigawatt-hours of energy per year, which is enough to power 16,000 households (based on wind conditions typical of the North Sea).

GE also claims each turbine will produce 45% more energy than any other offshore wind turbine available today.

The size of each would also allow operators to build wind farms with fewer turbines, lay fewer cables, and reduce construction, maintenance and other capital costs, GE says.

“This helps the customers when they are competing at auctions to build offshore farms and enter the lowest bid per kilowatt-hour,” says John Lavelle, CEO of GE Renewable Energy’s offshore wind division.

GE is building the Haliade X wind turbine, the largest in the world.
GE is building the Haliade X wind turbine, the largest in the world. Image: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

GE expects the first complete test turbine to be operational next year, with turbines shipped to customers in 2021.

However, GE engineers from across Europe and the United States are continually updating the Haliade X wind turbine designs and testing new technologies, such as 3D printing, which the company says may help reduce costs.

“We can’t limit our thinking,” Lavelle says. “What is our limit today may not be our limit in 2020.”


Offshore wind is getting stronger

The level of interest and investment in renewable energy has been rapidly increasing in recent years. Between 2004 and 2015 investment increased by more than six times to $286 billion. Renewables also attracted more than double the $130 billion committed to new coal and gas generation in 2015.

Offshore wind farms have been the focus of considerable innovation, outpacing development in the onshore wind sector. A chief reason for this is that offshore wind farms typically exceed expectations, outperforming their onshore counterparts.

For instance, Statoil’s Hywind floating wind farm, located off the coast of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, produced 65% of its maximum theoretical capacity in the months of November, December and January, according to EcoWatch.

In comparison, wind farms based onshore typically produced between 45% and 60% of their theoretical capacity during the same time period, EcoWatch said.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Energy TransitionNature and Biodiversity
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Critical minerals demand has doubled in the past five years – here are some solutions to the supply crunch

Emma Charlton

May 16, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum