An offshore wind farm using huge turbines has started to send electricity to the Belgian grid

Key Points
  • Europe is becoming home to a mature offshore wind sector.
  • As technology develops, wind turbines are increasing in size and scale.
This image shows the V164-9.5 MW turbine, which is being used at the Northwester 2 offshore wind farm in waters off the coast of Belgium.
MHI Vestas Offshore Wind A/S

The first turbine at the Northwester 2 offshore wind farm in the North Sea has started sending electricity to the Belgian grid.

Construction on the 219 megawatt (MW) project is still ongoing, although it is slated to be fully up and running before summer. Belgian wind energy firm Parkwind has a 70% share of the project, while Japan's Sumitomo Corporation holds 30%.

The scheme is using 23 MHI Vestas 164-9.5 MW turbines, which Parkwind described as "the most powerful turbines to enter commercial operation to date."

Located in waters off the coast of Belgium, Northwester 2 is the first offshore project to deploy the turbine, according to manufacturer MHI Vestas. One turbine can produce enough power to "meet the demand" of 9,500 homes in Belgium, the firm says.

"Starting up production of energy is a key milestone for the Northwester 2 project and is the result of thorough preparation and collaboration between our team, contractors, shareholders, authorities and the Belgian transmission grid operator Elia," Peter Caluwaerts, who is Parkwind's project director for Northwester 2, said in a statement issued Monday.

Bigger turbines on horizon

As technology develops, wind turbines are increasing in size and scale. In September 2018, MHI Vestas launched what it described as the industry's "first commercially available double digit wind turbine", the V164-10.0 MW.

The turbine has 80-meter long blades which weigh 35 tons each, and a tip height of around 187 meters. The turbine will be able to be delivered for commercial installation from 2021, the firm has said.

Other, even larger turbines are also being developed. In December, it was announced that Dutch utility Eneco had started to purchase power produced by the prototype of GE Renewable Energy's Haliade-X 12 MW wind turbine.

The scale of this turbine is also considerable: it has a capacity of 12 MW, a height of 260 meters and a blade length of 107 meters. GE Renewable Energy has described it as the "world's most powerful offshore wind turbine."

Europe is becoming home to a mature offshore wind sector. According to industry body WindEurope, 409 wind turbines were connected to the grid in 2018. The average size of offshore turbines in 2018 was 6.8 MW, which represents a 15% rise compared to 2017.