As much as we love the distributed, diverse, smart-network energy systems, there's something viscerally appealing about the megaproject approach to alternative energy. Some of the megaprojects are a bit bizarre, but many are completely reasonable, once you get over the scale. The new 5M wind turbine project just inaugurated in Germany looks like it should be the latter.
Standing nearly 400 feet (120 meters) in height, the 5M turbine, now in testing and connected to the grid, will eventually be moved offshore, putting out 5 MW at full output. The blades alone stretch over 200 feet (61.5 meters) apiece. It has a helicopter platform at top for maintenance (the image to the right is a computer graphics demo from RePower, the manufacturer, illustrating what a maintenance visit might look like). As Renewable Energy Access reports, this is only the first step:
During prototype testing, [...] the 5M will remain on-shore.
Offshore projects are in the making though. During the event, Talisman Energy, coordinator of the EU-supported "DOWNVInD" project confirmed their plans to propose to the European commission the use of two REpower 5M turbines as a demonstration project 25 km off the coast of Scotland.
In addition, a cooperation agreement was concluded with BARD Engineering GmbH as part of the development of the BARD Offshore I project in the German part of the North Sea. Final planning permission is expected for this year.
Megaturbines like 5M arguably are a better choice than farms of smaller (and smaller-output) windmills, as the massive turbine blades spin more slowly, and are therefore much less likely to result in bird kills.
Germany is already a renewable energy leader, with renewable sources making up 10% of overall German production, and wind making up over 30% of electricity supplied to the German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The German Renewable Energy Law is widely considered responsible for triggering the explosion of alternative power production. Germany plans to meet half its overall power needs with renewables by 2050, but it looks to be on a path to get there much faster.