World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbines Begin Testing in China

wind turbine
Dongfang completed the installation of the first 18 MW prototype at its test facility in southeast China (Dongfang)

Published Jun 11, 2024 4:30 PM by The Maritime Executive


Chinese manufacturers are pushing forward with their efforts to upsize turbines for offshore wind farms. Two of the largest turbines ever built, Envision Energy’s 16.7 MW prototype and Dongfang Electric’s 18 MW prototype, have both begun testing while even larger turbines are in the offing. The Chinese manufacturers are competing for the domestic market as well as looking to expand the international market for wind turbines.

Envision Energy, founded in 2007 in Shanghai, reports that it completed the first grid connection for its 16.7 MW turbine. This surpasses the 16 MW turbine launched by China’s Goldwind and installed offshore in Fujian Province in Southeast China. Last September, the 16 MW turbine claimed a new record reportedly producing 384.1 megawatt hours in 24 hours helped by the strong winds from an approaching typhoon. A month earlier, a Danish wind turbine set a record at 364 MWh. The Goldwin turbine covers a massive 826-foot (252-meter) diameter.

Envision reports its turbine was designed and built for the demanding conditions at deep water locations. In addition to reliability, the large turbine is designed to reduce construction costs requiring fewer turbines to achieve targeted power levels and low maintenance costs.

Last week, on June 5, Dongfang Electric however further pushed the limits of the field completing the installation of its 18 MW semi-direct dive turbine also designed for deep sea offshore installations.  Manufacturing of the turbine was completed in April and it was shipped to a coastal test location in Guangdong Province in southeast China near Hong Kong. 

The 18 MW turbine covers a diameter of 853 feet (260 meters). It uses a modular design and the shaft system, gearbox, and generator are integrated to improve reliability and efficiency. The company says the unit is capable of producing 72 million kWh per year. For maintenance, the unit has a lifting device.

Dongfang illustrates the rapid advancement in the field highlighting that it installed its first offshore wind turbine in 2013. It was a 5 MW unit and just six years later in 2019 they installed Asia’s first 10 MW unit. In 2022, they installed Asia’s first 13 MW unit, with the company claiming today that it accounts for more than a third of the Chinese market for turbines above 10 MW.

By comparison, GE Verona announced plans in March 2023 to upsize its Haliade-X turbine to reach between 17 and 18 MW.  The company’s largest turbine is currently 14.7 MW. However, less than a year later, GE reported it was shelving plans for the big 18 MW turbine and instead would focus on the 15 MW which it called a “workhorse” for the industry. However, projects in New York State had been bid with the 18 MW turbines, and New York’s regulator NYSERDA in April 2024 ended its third-round solicitation without awarding any contracts saying the withdrawal of the larger turbines had “caused material changes to the proposed projects.”

Chinese manufacturers are continuing to push the envelope on the designs. Mingyang Wind Power last fall surprised the industry by announcing plans for a 22 MW turbine which they said they expect to complete between 2024 and 2025. The company already has its 16 MW turbine in production and is moving forward with an 18 MW design. 

According to data from Wood Mackenzie, China now has four of the top five wind turbine manufacturers with Vestas being the only Western manufacturer in the top five. Worldwide, there was approximately 67.4 GW of offshore wind energy capacity installed as of the end of 2023, with China building a strong lead. As of the end of the year, China had more than 31 GW installed with the UK a distance second at just under 15 GW installed.