Danish OEM Vestas is taking what it calls the “next step” in modularisation of its wind turbines with a newly-unveiled nacelle design fashioned around a main body section and side-compartments that will each house ‘click-on’ components and technologies, Recharge can reveal.

The concept – which builds on the EnVentus platform launched in 2019 and has been instrumental in engineering the turbine-maker’s 15MW offshore model – has been devised to answer the need to continue scaling up turbine nameplates to reduce levellised cost of energy, while meeting the logistical challenges of shipping ever-larger components from factory to project site.

“This truly modularised design is a move to pave the way for scale by optimising how our products, services and solutions are designed and produced with a steadfast focus on meeting customer and market needs,” said Vestas CTO Anders Nielsen.

“It is not yet the whole solution, but it is a key part of the solution we feel: opening up the architecture [of the nacelle] so we can decouple the upscaling of certain systems without needing re-do the complete nacelle, which we used to often have to do because of the ‘ripple effect’ of changing one component in a design.”

The new modularised concept will have a main nacelle house containing the turbine’s powertrain, conditioning system, and hydraulic unit, while the converter and transformer will be set in a side-compartment, along with “many different types of relevant technologies”.

Both compartments will be “dimensionally designed to correspond to general industry standards”, noted Nielsen, with an eye on their “conforming” to shipping container measurements for transportation by road, rail, and at sea “with less need for specialised handling”.

“By dividing the nacelle into manageable modular ‘building blocks’, [we] aim to take advantage of industrial [transport] standards rather than challenging them, taking the entire value-chain into account in the efforts to ensure continued renewable energy competitiveness,” he said.

“That said, [conversely] from a wind industry perspective, this design will be challenging standards,” added Nielsen.

Though Vestas’ modular nacelle concept is “application agnostic” insofar as it will be used for both onshore and offshore models, the “communalisation” of components and the accompanying technology validation that the design will facilitate is expected to help in delivering the volumes of machines needed for the wind industry to expand from the 750GW turning today to the 2,100GW foreseen online by mid-century.

“The major opportunities that we see before us lie in adapting [our turbines] to specific region but there is also the fact that [the modular nacelle concept] will be an enable to faster deployment overall,” said Nielsen, “and more quickly develop and deploy future solutions in a timely manner.”

There is also the longer-term benefit once the turbines are in operation that comes with a click-on system, he added, in that it affords “smarter servicing solutions and opens up upgrade and innovation possibilities over the lifetime of the operating asset”.

Development of the modularised nacelle in tandem with the offshore 15MW V236, he said, has opened eyes at Vestas to “future potential progress” with the OEM’s top-of-the-line model, as well as “good synergies with onshore models ahead”.

“Offshore [turbines] still require specific solutions… but with this [modular nacelle], we are creating the possibilities to combine and customise across [the onshore/offshore engineering divide], meaning if a subsystem fits, we should use it.”

Nielsen believes that as modularisation-based engineering progresses in the industry, efforts at standardisation should be focused on the “interfaces” between the components and subsystems.

“The point of standardisation of interfaces is: when you want to increase the performance of a turbine you need to figure out which subsystems will lead most to that increased performance,” he said

“And if I can keep the same interfaces to the ‘other’ subsystems that I don’t need to change and make incremental changes to the ones I do, then the design process is simplified [while turbine performance is improved].”

The modularisation philosophy being advanced at Vestas, rooted in “form-factor optimising at the system-level”, is to now being applied so as to “encompass the whole turbine”, said Nielsen. “Blades, hubs, hydraulics, cooling system, everything. It is all about increasing the value delivered by wind power.”