Turbine Titan GE Gives Offshore A Go

GE is making a go at the offshore wind turbine market, and has found a home for its new 4-megawatt (MW) offering. The company said installation had begun for its 4.1-113 Offshore Wind Turbine in Gothenburg Harbor. The project with Göteborg Energi is the first commercial application of GE’s 4.1-113 technology, which the company says “will bring a new level of reliability to the offshore wind industry.”

GE is a turbine titan on the ground, of course, having installed more than 17,000 turbines. In 2010, it held 9.3 percent of the world market and nearly 50 percent of the U.S. turbine market, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 2010 Renewable Energy Data Book [PDF]. But offshore has been a different story.

GE 4.1-113 offshore wind turbine

image via GE

In September, Forbes reported that the company was “scaling back efforts to expand its presence in the offshore wind power market.” The 4.1-113 turbine, developed in Norway, “performs very well in shallow waters, but leaves a lot to be desired in deeper waters,” Forbes said. “As a result, GE has shifted its focus in the deep-water space to developing a 10-15 MW turbine using superconducting magnets, which has received addition funding support from the DOE.”

The trade publication North American Windpower (NAW) said that even with the Gothenburg Harbor installation, observers remained uncertain of GE’s offshore future. NAW quoted Dan Shreve, a principal at MAKE consulting, saying: “GE has fallen behind other turbine manufacturers, such as Siemens, Vestas, REpower and Alstom, all of which are quickly moving toward commercializing offshore wind turbines exceeding 6 MW.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.