Bigger is almost always better for wind power. Bigger wind farms are better than smaller wind farms and bigger wind turbines are better than smaller ones.
The biggest turbines currently available produce nearly 10 MW of power, which is enough to supply over 2,000 homes with electricity. A wind farm with just a few of these turbines could produce enough electricity for a small town. A big wind farm, like the giant 1,550 MW Alta Wind Energy Center in California can generate enough power for a small city.
Vestas Wind Systems, an industry leader based in Denmark, has announced a 10 MW turbine that will be ready for installation in two years. The rotor diameter of the giant machine is 538 feet and the blades sweep out an area of 227,000 square feet, the size of nearly 4 football fields.
Not to be outdone, General Electric is developing a 12 MW offshore wind turbine that will stand 850 feet tall and sweep out an area of more than 400,000 square feet. GE estimates that its 12 MW turbine will achieve nearly twice the capacity factor of its 6 MW turbine.
Companies are building bigger and bigger wind turbines because they are more cost effective. The capacity factor, which is the actual energy production divided by the potential energy production, goes up as the turbines get bigger and more efficient. In terms of dollars spent to produce a given amount of power, larger windfarms are less expensive to build than smaller ones. A wind farm of 200-500 MW capacity is about 40% cheaper per MW capacity than a 25 MW wind farm.
When it comes to wind energy, there is no doubt that bigger is better.
Photo, posted February 14, 2012, courtesy of Aaron Warner via Flickr.