One of the most effective and robust wind turbines is probably the Haliade-X wind turbine. GE has spent about $485 Million on Research and Development in its Renewable Energy business and was able to produce this wind turbine which can generate power for up to 16,000 European households. The Haliade, in addition to capturing more wind, will reduce the cost of electricity and produce more energy than previous wind turbines across the sector.
Considering it is an innovation of a top engineering and research-intensive company with roots in several continents, it is likely to be installed in several regions and countries globally. It is still in its early stages of roll-out with its prototype just clocking two years of operations. Even though wind turbines are usually related to reducing carbon emissions, to what extent does this Haliade wind turbine perform across its life cycle? Unleashing limitless energy does not mean producing clean energy across the turbines’ lifecycle. There is little information on embodied emissions for the product and this is a concern.
Before we go into the composition, the specifications are worth noting. The wind turbine is around 260 meters (m) in height and has a rotor diameter of 220m meaning they cover a really large sweep area. The wind blades are just around 107m in length and the interesting part is that it covers a sweep area of 38,000 square meters. The Halide-X 14MW can generate 74 gigawatt-hour of energy and with just a rotation, it can power one UK household for more than two days. With an IC class wind class, the Haliade-X can operate and withstand extreme wind conditions and turbulence. The wind turbine is made up of carbon hybrid blades according to GE-RE’s Haliade-X website. There is no mention of the composition and structure of what is made from. However, this may be closely guarded information.
On a typical German North Sea Site, one Haliade-X 14MW can save up to 52,000 metric tons of CO2. This is typically the information you would find across the public domain of GE and represents only the carbon savings during the use of the wind turbine. Most importantly, the embodied emissions which occur behind the scenes are not disclosed across the product’s lifecycle are withheld. Clients cannot make informed decisions on what the Haliade-X incorporates for their projects since it is not clear what the embodied emissions are. Hence, transparency is lacking yet crucial to trust the renewable energy product.
The lifecycle of a product contains the materials extraction and sourcing, processing, manufacturing, distribution, usage, and end of life. Across its usage, the Haliade-X presents a positive carbon reduction impact similar to reductions in emissions produced by 11,000 vehicles annually. Still, there is little to no information across the lifecycle, especially the material used. This makes it difficult to determine between 40 – 60% of the life cycle emissions which constitute the embodied emissions. The make-up of the turbine starts with an erected structure attached to the bottom of a wind turbine platform with rotors extending outward. The rotors serve as the pivot and hold the blades in place to form the structure of a fully coupled wind turbine.
The embodied emissions of producing these parts are directly linked to the factory emissions where they are built. There is no information regarding how the products are built, especially the operating conditions of the factories. There is little to no information about the power source the factories use whether it is Renewable Energy or Coal-Emitting sources. Operating a lean mode of manufacturing, the status of these emissions cannot be adequately determined as several parts are produced that serve other products. The end of life of a typical GE wind turbine is estimated at 25 years which allows the technology to process and recycle the parts. This will create the chance to address one section of its life cycle. Nonetheless, it is not clear what composition makes up the materials used. Hence, it cannot be forecasted what will be the outcome of decommissioning these turbines close to three decades from now. Basically, anything GE is considered a business or intellectual property.
GE Renewable Energy (GE-RE) is one of the foremost renewables companies in the world. It is a business segment of the group company General Electric (GE). According to GE-RE, it has installed 400GW of renewable energy capacity worldwide with a presence in over 100 companies. This makes it a vanguard in energy installations, services, and grid utilities having more than 45,000 wind turbines and about 25% of hydropower installations globally. Combining with GE Power, GE-RE became a company of its own accord, forming GE Energy recently. In addition, GE Energy directly or indirectly generates one-third of the world’s electricity.
GE has a strong innovative spirit and is value-driven creating energy products for its numerous clients. One of its priorities is building technology that enhances a sustainable future. To do this, it plans to address the issues of reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and cater to the needs of around 1 Billion people that lack electricity and energy access. With a 2020 revenue of $15,666 Million and around 40 thousand employees, GE Energy’s latest and most innovative product is the Haliade-X Offshore wind turbine. Looking at the concept of climate change, GE is one of those big corporations that can make a huge impact with its far-reaching offerings and products. Being one of the major contributors to carbon emissions currently overshadows this impact.
Although the product offers so much in carbon savings and will contribute towards reduction of climate change, there is so little that is known about the embodied emissions of the turbine from labour conditions, factory operations to material composition. GE needs share more information in those areas. However, the company tends to innovate at a rapid pace which is critical to meeting NetZero targets.
Caveat: This review is based on the information available in the public domain. This may understate or overstate actual figures and facts of the company’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. To make an informed decision for your project, service, or purchase, kindly acquire more information from the company.
About GE Renewable Energy – https://www.ge.com/renewableenergy/about-us
GE Haliade-X 13 MW 2020 - https://www.ge.com/news/sites/default/files/2020-09/ge_haliade_x_horizontal_9_21_2020_0.pdf
GE Sustainability Report – https://www.ge.com/sites/default/files/ge2020_sustainability_report.pdf
What is the wind class of a wind turbine? https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/windpower/windpower-learning-centre/what-is-the-wind-class-of-a-wind-turbine
World’s Most Powerful Offshore Wind Turbine | Haliade-X | GE Renewable Energy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybh7NwZv7c8