Finland’s VTT Research Centre of Technology has found that new wind power technology enables higher towers, longer blades and reasonable efficiency in low wind conditions.
VTT explored the potential and economic benefits of new wind power technology and found that it would greatly increase the benefits of wind energy and enable the competitive utilisation of wind power in Finland. The research centre investigated Finland’s own wind power potential and compared various generations of wind power technology. Ground-based wind turbines are often built in open locations where there is sufficient wind. However, the problem is that low winds do not generate adequate power. New technology now enables higher towers and larger rotors than previous wind turbine generation and these new turbines are also reasonably efficient in low winds. This will allow turbines to be located more freely in the future, for example in forested areas.
Heavy investments are now being made in wind power, which highlights its importance. Wind power now accounts for around 4 percent of global electricity consumption and over 10 percent in Europe. The new technology will enable an increase in competitive wind power. Although the investment costs of the new power plants are higher than before, there is a fivefold beneficial increase in the potential offered, compared to the older technology. On the same cost assumptions, the new technology could cover the whole of Finland’s electricity consumption (86 TWh), whereas the old technology’s potential was limited to around 16 TWh. In addition, land use restrictions have no major impact on the evaluation of the new technology’s potential, since it would enable economically viable production in more locations than before.
“Sufficient wind power is available in Finland” said Research Scientist Erkka Rinne of VTT. “Technology and land use restrictions affect the available wind power potential, i.e. annual energy production. The key issue is to decide on the extent to which this potential is realised. In practice, wind power is intended to cover part of electricity consumption. Large-scale use of wind power will require new kinds of solutions throughout the electric power system”.
Finland’s expertise in Arctic wind power gives it a particular competitive edge. VTT is developing state-of-the-art technology which takes account of environmental impacts and benefits from, for example, the tools and fine adjustments enabled by the virtual modelling of wind turbines.
VTT’s study forms part of the EL-TRAN Research Project (2015–2021) funded by the Strategic Research Council which operates at the Academy of Finland. The full research study has now been published in Nature.