The world’s most powerful wind turbine is officially operational and grid-connected. Situated offshore in the Taiwan Strait and standing over 150 metres from base to blade hub, the 16-megawatt unit is reportedly capable of generating enough clean electricity to power tens of thousands of Chinese homes.
Jointly developed by two Goldwind Science and Technology and China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC), the fixed offshore turbine is approximately 32.8 kilometres from the Fujian shoreline on the country’s southern coast.
At 52 stories tall, its immense height is somewhat surprisingly dwarfed by the sheer scale of its 252-metre blade diameter. The turbine blades sweep a total area of 50 000 square metres – larger than seven regulation-length football fields combined, according to figures provided by Interesting Engineering.
Each rotation of the blades generates roughly 34.2 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the grid, enough to satisfy the energy requirements of the average Chinese home for an entire day.
Over the course of a year, the 16 megawatt, three-blade turbine will feed 66 gigawatt-hours of clean, carbon-free energy into the grid, at the same time preventing 20 000 tons of coal from being burnt and releasing 54 000 tonnes of harmful emissions from leeching into the atmosphere.
The turbine was specifically designed to withstand “near gale” or level 7 winds. These are wind speeds reaching and exceeding 52 kilometres an hour, according to the Beaufort Scale.
It may need every bit of reinforcement too as the South China Sea and the unique geography of the Taiwan Strait are notorious for their violent and often unpredictable weather patterns. Every year the region is battered by tropical storms, typhoons, and some of the most intense winds in all the world’s oceans.
Despite some of the challenges posed to engineers when establishing wind farms in the South China Sea, the region has some of the best offshore wind potential on Earth.
China’s floating and fixed offshore wind potential is an estimated 2982 gigawatts, with much of the capacity for electricity located between the southern regions of Shenzhen and Putian, near Taiwan, according to the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.
Not content with a 16-megawatt wind turbine, Goldwind and CTGC have already started development on an 18-megawatt unit that, when integrated into the grid, will put out enough energy to keep the lights on in more than 60 000 homes year-round.