Siemens SG-14 Wind Turbine

overall rating:

1.25

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AbdulHameed Raji
2/28/2022
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Wind Energy is fast becoming the aim of big corporations and engineering giants. Several additions are being made to renewable energy product lines across several companies annually. One of such additions is the rollout of the SG-14 Wind Turbines with two different versions namely, the 14-222-DD and 14-236-DD. The current offering available for serial production is the SG-11 while the SG-14s are scheduled to be widely available by 2024.

The wind market seems to be ideal in the United Kingdom with a huge demand for Wind Energy. Several wind farms have been commissioned recently and there is a recent commitment from the UK Government to have an installed capacity of 40GW by 2030. This attracts the interest of global companies like Siemens, General Electric and EDF Energy. Since the SG-14 are still in the prototype and development stages, the focus here will be in the production processes.

What it's made of:

1.25

The SG-14 wind turbines are made leveraging over 30 years of Siemens’ wind power experience. Just like every other wind turbine, the SG wind turbines have a base, support, turbine compartment, rotor, and blades. The base and support play a passive role in the energy generation but hold the active components in place. The height of the support is site-specific while there was no mention of the base. The turbine compartment hosts several innovative technologies such as permanent magnet generators, energy stabilisers, and less wear-prone components. The rotor is an extension of the compartment and houses the blades.  With several quality and material testing, Siemens uses resins and glass fibre which is claimed to be recyclable in the production of the blades. This was driven by several countries legislating reusability and circularity.

With a sweep area of 43,500 square-metres, the SG-14-236 has blade length of 115 metres and rotor diameter of 236 meters generating about 15 megawatts of energy with Power Boost, a Siemens performance feature. The SG-14-222 turbines has specifications just below its recent version and both were designed to suit high- and low-wind locations. It is difficult to determine the emissions from the base and support since there is little knowledge of their composition. The turbine compartment uses less components reducing material usage, but the electrical parts may contribute significantly to carbon emissions. Also, it is unknown what specific materials are used to manufacture the blades and to what percentages. Hence, the basic information about the turbine is not enough to determine if they are really sustainable. Hence, the baseline is that they are not sustainable yet.

How it's made:

1.5

The activities required to make a fully operational SG-14 wind turbine involves sourcing the materials, manufacturing the blades and the wind turbine components, transportation to wind farm, assembling the components and erecting the turbine before use. For the first prototype of this wind turbine in Denmark in Mid-2020, more than 250 employees had to work across the production and installation cycle. With a total of above 26,000 employees, Gamesa has a lost-time and total recordable injury rate of 1.36 and 3.14 indicating the company has a safety leader. The amount of energy required to produce this wind turbine is currently unknown to the public but from a manufacturing point of view, it must be an enormous amount. To reduce the issue of road transportation costs, SG built a central production site sitting just on the coast of the German North Sea in Cuxhaven. This would in turn reduce the emissions from transporting turbine components towards the sea and production emissions.

There are still several sub-sectors which have not caught up to Renewable Energy companies in terms of sustainability such as shipping, factory operations, extraction. These contribute to embodied emissions of the wind turbines. Partnering with Finland companies (Stena Recycling and Geocycle) to recycle the turbines reaching end of life gives the ability to gain experience for recycling the SG-14 series which would start to reach decommissioning stage by 2045 and beyond. In addition to this, the blades are recovered as cement or sand or used for paper by-products reducing carbon emissions by 110kg for each ton of blade waste and 461kg of raw materials savings in these energy-intensive sectors. While the turbines have negative carbon impacts during operation, their production requires a lot of energy and associated with that are huge carbon emissions because factories are still characterised by carbon-emitting energy sources.

Who makes it:

1.25

Siemens Gamesa is a leading renewable energy company leveraging innovative technologies to provide green energy and navigating the waters of sustainability. SG has continuously developed top of the line wind turbines with the SG-14, 11 and 8 turbines being released in the last half decade. This is in addition to leveraging its 30 years’ experience of developing and installing 5GW of electricity in several wind power plants in the UK, Germany, and China in 2020. With forecasted growth in renewables especially offshore wind energy, Siemens is positioning itself as a sustainability vanguard incorporating design and recyclability as well as aiming for net zero emissions by 2040. Siemens was awarded a contract to install 100 of the SG-14-222 wind turbines in UK’s Sofia Wind Farm to the tune of 1.4-gigawatt capacity.

Its sustainability strategy details a 20-year plan to meet this target and also states current indicators across environmental, social and governance space. This is really useful to track performance from a public view and a stepping-stone to transparency. Only 12% are female at the managerial level which can be improved on for social sustainability. As of 2020, Gamesa has a total installed energy capacity of 107 giga-watts and 9.4 billion Euros in revenue yearly. SG is a bit transparent about its sustainability indicators but still does not give adequate information about its manufacturing and production processes making it difficult to track its embodied emissions.