Construction of GE Renewable Energy’s 12MW Haliade-X prototype is formally underway in the Port of Rotterdam following a groundbreaking ceremony held by Future Wind, the joint venture between the Netherlands’ Pondera Development and Sif, which will manage the site where the unit’s testing and operations and maintenance programme will be carried out.

Installation of the 50 piles for the giant turbine, located a “quasi-offshore” quayside location , took place earlier this year, with laying of a 28-meter foundation plate next to come, in advance of the arrival of the nacelle, blades and tower later in the summer.

“We are very pleased to accommodate the Haliade X-12MW,” said Future Wind manager Hans Rijntalder. “It marks a new step in offshore wind and supports the purpose of Sif and Pondera to encourage the improvement of the wind energy sector”.

GE’s Renewable Energy Offshore Wind chief technology officer Vincent Schellings, who is leading the Haliade-X project, said: “We are very excited about our prototype in Rotterdam, and we are on schedule to install the biggest and more powerful wind turbine in the world, that will contribute to make offshore wind energy more competitive.”

Rotterdam alderman Arno Bonte stated: “This special offshore wind turbine symbolises the transition from a fossil-based economy towards an economy based on renewables. Wind energy at sea will be one of the main power sources in the Netherlands for the coming decades and the Rotterdam city and harbour is ready to play an important role in this transition.”

Components for the flagship Haliade-X are being manufactured at GE Renewable Energy’s Saint-Nazaire factory in France, while the blades are in fabrication at its plant in Cherbourg, and the tower being built by a subcontractor in Seville, Spain.

GE Renewable Energy aims to have the machine’s type certificate signed-off on next year and first commercial units shipped in 2021.

The US power technology giant is spending €320m ($400m) to develop the Haliade-X, which is designed to generate 67GWh of power a year using a 220-metre-diameter rotor turning a direct-drive and permanent-magnet-generator transmission system.

Data collected during testing of the Rotterdam prototype will be streamed back to several of GE Renewable Energy's engineering centres, as well as to the UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult R&D facility in Blyth, UK, as part of a its plans to fast-track commercial development of the turbine.

The conception and construction of the Haliade-X platform – the launch of which Recharge revealed exclusively last year – has been founded on a cross-portfolio approach at GE. GE Renewable Energy engaged in “unprecedented collaboration” within the group, including GE’s Onshore wind team, which has a fleet of 50,000 turbines in the field; blade expertise from earlier-acquired LM Wind Power; GE Power and GE Aviation engineers undertaking peer reviews of design; GE’s Global Research Center checking control systems and component validation; and GE Digital supporting digital modelling, analytics and app development.

GE Renewable Energy currently has a 10GW in bids “at various stages of negotiation” out for projects internationally for the turbine, according to Lavelle. “Both the development of the technology and the development of a viable pipeline that can be turned into concrete orders are great advances of the product.”

The company last month denied reports it was developing a 14MW version of its Haliade-X for the Rotterdam site.