At 107m long, it’s the world record for the longest offshore wind turbine blade ever made. A record now held by LM WIND POWER of Cherbourg. This challenge, started in 2017, has fulfilled all of its promises. Since its opening in April 2018, one of the largest French factory of the General Electric group has kept on recruiting.
THE LARGEST BLADE EVER BUILT
One in five of all wind turbines in the world is equipped with a blade from the factories of the Danish company LM WIND POWER, a subsidiary of General Electric. In 2017, the group decided to set up its sole giant blade factory in Cherbourg. Cherbourg became a showcase for the know-how of this world leading innovation.
“The Cherbourg factory is the only LM WIND POWER site in France and the only one in the world to make the 107m blades. The town is perfectly placed to serve the European offshore wind turbine market, giving directly onto the quay. This is ideal for our wind turbines which can only be transported by boat.” Florence Martinez Flores – Human Resources Director, LM WIND POWER Cherbourg
These gigantic blades will be mated with the Haliade X 12 MW, developed by GE Renewable Energy, with a turbine made in Saint Nazaire. At 260m high, this wind turbine is the most powerful in the world, capable of producing green energy for 16 000 homes.
It’s also the first time that the prototypes have been built directly in the factory that will be responsible for commercial production and not in the pilot factory in Denmark. A real technical and human challenge.
A MORE ACCESSIBLE GREEN ENERGY
A risky gamble which has borne fruits. In November 2019, 3 prototype blades were mated up to the Haliade X demonstrator in Rotterdam. From the first weeks, the measured performances broke all records, producing up to 262kw/h in 24 hours.
“It’s a giant step in the wind turbine sector and for renewable energies to make green energy more accessible and cheaper.”
Since the start of the commercialisation phase, GE Renewable has been selected as a preferred supplier agreement s for 2 offshore wind farms off the American coast and for the largest offshore wind farm in the world: Dogger Bank, off the coast of Yorkshire. With these contracts, the factory is planning to produce over 1 200 blades.
“There is immense pride in seeing the site expand, coming together! In the space of a year, we went from 0 to 120 employees, then in the second year from 120 to 320. It’s an exceptional project.”
NEW PROFESSION FOR AN INNOVATIVE BLADE
In order to achieve this feat, everything had to be reinvented, adapted in order to make these innovative giant blades. LM WIND POWER group relied on skills transferred with experienced operators from their sites in Europe. The factory has also included from the start its own training centre – a “centre of excellence” – to train French employees.
Today, the site employs over 300 people (of which 34% are female) from 22 different nationalities. And the company has no plans to stop there! To meet demand, they are planning to recruit nearly 250 new staff beginning this summer.
NB: Some good news for the planet. Competition is fierce in the renewable energy market. Siemens-Gamesa, the principal competitor and leader in the sector, and also present in Normandy, has just announced the development of an even more powerful wind turbine at 14 MW, with blades of 108m, which will come onto the market in 2024. Proof that innovations in the green energy market are on-going.