Siemens Gamesa is confident it can compete with recently announced super-sized offshore wind turbines by Chinese manufacturers, but the European OEM is keeping a close eye on any competition to defend its market leadership in wind-at-sea, its head of product portfolio management, Martin Gerhardt, told Recharge.

The German-Spanish turbine maker has launched successively bigger models from 6MMW-11MW over the past decade, and Siemens Gamesa last year unveiled a 14MW offshore wind turbine – upgradeable to 15MW – in the race to dominate the international market for ultra-large machines.

But Chinese player MingYang Smart Energy in August topped that with a 16MW model – the world’s largest so far - which it plans to install as a prototype in 2023, and have in commercial production a year later.

“MingYang is not the only one, we had some announcements also from Goldwind and Dongfang that they want to deploy large turbines,” Gerhardt said in an exclusive interview speaking from WindEurope’s Electric City 2021 conference.

“Of course it is still a long way from announcing it to having a commercially successful product that also runs and shows a good performance and a good cost position.

“This takes time and needs to be proven. But of course we are looking at that, we are looking at any competition and we try to defend our market leadership.”

MingYang is currently leapfrogging in its portfolio towards the super-sized machine, an undertaking that normally doesn’t happen without risks, Gerhardt said, pointing to the need to have the technology under control, and to build up a supply chain.

The Chinese OEM according to the Bloomberg financial news agency in September said it is planning to work on a first European wind turbine factory in Germany within three years that could produce at least 1GW in turbine per year.

But Gerhardt predicted it won’t be an easy task for the Asian competition. “We look at these players. We also know that if they come to Europe, it will take investments for them to build factories and so on. We are confident that we could beat such a turbine.”

Matters could be different in Asia, due to the sheer size of the Chinese market, and its proximity to other key regional plays.

The Asian economic superpower itself is such a massive market, MingYang might sell its new 16MW turbine only in its home waters, Gerhardt thinks – a market that was in turmoil this year due to an installation rush by developers to get wind farms built before a central feed-in tariff was phased out.

“It is very tough without an incentive scheme to basically make projects in China. There, I think that larger turbines might help,” which could have been a motive for MingYang to fast-track the development of its huge machine, Gerhardt reckoned.

MingYang last month has also managed a major break-through in Vietnam, where the OEM received an order for the 375MW Ca Mau intertidal project. The company will only deploy 5MW machines there, however.

Gerhardt reckons MingYang could also offer their products in Korea or Japan, but points to Siemens Gamesa’s proven track record as an advantage also in those markets.

“We have experience in offshore, we have a very high performance in our current products. Our next product is an evolutionary step. That is also very important for our customers.”