Tech parallels for Areva, Gamesa

As in the Vestas-Mitsubishi joint venture, there is a technology overlap in the tie-up between Areva and Gamesa, with both having large-rotor 5MW machines ready to go.

Areva’s 5MW M5000-135, which is in final testing at an onshore site in Germany, is a big brother to the turbine maker’s 5MW M5000-116, which was first installed in 2009 as part of the Alpha Ventus project, and is in serial production with 80 currently being installed at the 400MW Global Tech 1 wind farm off Germany.

The up-scaled M5000 is built around a one-stage gearbox with synchronous permanent-magnet generator (PMG) transmission system and flies 66-metre glass-reinforced plastic blades with a swept area of 14,326 square metres.

Gamesa’s recently unveiled 5MW, the G128-5.0, draws on technology hatched for the company’s 4.5MW onshore machine. The turbine’s 62-metre-long pitch-controlled blades, made of an organic matrix composite reinforced with fibreglass and carbon-fibre, power an integrated two-stage geared drivetrain with PMG.

The prototype set a record-high for power generation for wind turbines in Spain on 2 November when it produced 118.05MWh of electricity over 24 hours.

Both also have plans for an 8MW-class model, with Areva’s technology development programme the more advanced. Though still shrouded in some secrecy, the turbine on the drawing-board has a rotor diameter approaching 190 metres and is expected to have a similar drive-train architecture to the 5MW models.

The turbine – said by Areva to offer the potential of a 40% reduction in the number of present-day turbines needed for a wind farm of this size and with "more space" for fishing operations – would be the world's largest.

A consortium made up of GDF Suez, EDP Renewables, Neoen Marine, and Areva is bidding to build 1GW of offshore wind energy as early as 2021 off western France at the Le Tréport andYeu/Noirmoutier projects, using new 8MW turbines.

To this point, Areva has had its main turbine serial production line at its factory in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Strategic plans to supply the French and “southern UK”  offshore markets are built around the construction of a four-factory complex for the manufacture of nacelles, blades, and other key equipment including bearings and generators the port of Le Havre, with the port of Saint-Nazaire serving as an assembly site for the turbines and their jackets.

Le Havre is also the likeliest site a large-scale test bench on which to trial the 8MW unit's drive-train. Logistics, operations, and maintenance would be run out of Dieppe and Le Tréport, as well as on the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier.

In 2012, Gamesa proclaimed its intention to build a turbine manufacturing facility in Leith, Scotland, then shelved the idea when the UK government soon afterwards announced a review of energy markets, and is currently considering its options.