Wind farm with world’s biggest turbines opens in Belgium

Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Energy who attended the opening on 25 November, said: “Estinnes is a milestone on our ambitious road to sustainable energy.”

Situated near the town of Mons, in Wallonia, the Enercon E-126 wind turbines are the largest turbines ever put into operation to produce electricity. These technologically advanced models are among the most efficient turbines in the world.

Nicolas Fichaux, head of policy analysis at the European Wind Energy Association, said that the fact that these turbines have been installed on European soil shows that Europe still has the “technological lead” in the wind industry.

A 198m-high crane – one of the world’s largest – was used to install the turbines.

The wind farm was co-financed by the European Commission with up to €3.3 million from the 7th Framework Programme. “The European Commission is committed to support the wind power in achieving its 2020 renewable energy targets,” the Commission said.

Enercon GmbH (Enercon) is a large wind turbine manufacturer in Germany. The company’s business activities are accredited with several key innovations such as gearless wind turbine in combination with an annular generator technology followed by drive system, system control, grid connection and tower & foundation technology.

Enercon is mainly engaged in producing and providing wind energy converters based on tested turbine concept. It has developed various equipments for grid stabilization and system control. The company manufactures diverse wind turbines with rated power ranging from 330 kW to over 2,300 kW. Further, the company also intends to expand their present overseas markets.

Currently, in the Estinnes wind farm in Belgium five out of eleven planned E-126 wind energy converters have been completed, the world‘s most powerful wind turbine to date. On 25 November, wind farm operator WindVision has marked this occasion with a big inauguration event. Most prominent guest was the European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

In his inauguration speech, Piebalgs stated that the E-126 turbine technology and the Estinnes wind farm seem to be “one the most suited and best developed options to further increase the onshore wind power exploitation potential in Europe at a high supply security and at affordable costs”. Compared with a state of the art 2 MW turbine, the E-126 increases the utilisation expressed in MW/km² by the factor of 2.3.

The logistics to install the 198 m wind turbines touch the limits of today’s state of the art engineering: the world‘s largest crawler crane, a 1.600 t crane, was developed and constructed especially for lifting the giant 127 m diameter rotor in one step. “The E-126 wind turbine comprises the most advanced power electronics in use in the wind sector and is able to provide grid stabilising ancillary services which before were reserved for conventional power plants. Finally, to allow for an optimal integration of the produced electricity into the grid, advanced power prediction technologies are applied,” Piebalgs explained.

The Estinnes wind farm was co-financed by the European Union. The target was to test the formerly 6 MW wind turbine‘s performance at higher power levels. Also, grid integration of wind turbines with such a capacity was an objective. According to ENERCON customer WindVision, the 11 turbines are expected to reach an annual yield of 187 GWh, a capacity to provide some 50,000 households with electrical power.

“At the moment, all E-126 WEC of the Estinnes wind farm are running at max. 6 MW nominal electrical power. They are among the first of its series and in the course of the project have been improved as a result of continuous research and thereof resulting technical insights. Preliminary results of the measurement campaign have shown that in the course of next year ENERCON will be able to increase the nominal power of the major part of the WECs at least towards the intended 7 MW,” said Bernhard Fink, head of the Enercon Sales Department Belgium.

“The Estinnes project shows how huge the potential for onshore wind power in Europe is”, Fink added. “If we want to reach the target of the EU Renewable Energy Directive for 2020, onshore wind power will have to play a major role. Otherwise a fully renewable electricity supply will not be feasible – neither from the financial point of view nor concerning the potential. All our scenarios do reflect this fact: Even EWEA, usually optimistic when it comes to forecasts about offshore wind, expects onshore wind energy to play the most important role until 2027.”

According to Andris Piebalgs the European Commission is committed to support the wind industry in achieving its 2020 target and namely to install a total wind power capacity of 180 GW. “More than ever we have reasons to expect that on-shore wind farms can continue playing a major role in this scenario,” he concluded.