German company Max Bögl Wind AG has built the world’s tallest wind turbine. The turbine ‘hub’ is 178m (584ft) tall, and the tower’s total height – to the tips of the upward extended blades – is 246.5m (809ft).

For every meter increase in turbine height, annual energy output is increased 0.5-1% due to lower turbulence and higher wind speeds.

The wind turbines are located in Gaildorf, Germany. The project cost €70M ($81M) and is expected to generate €6.5M ($7.6M) revenue per year. It is part of a ‘water battery’ pilot project.

The single turbine that is the tallest is part of a group of four units with heights ranging from 155-178m (508-584ft). Atop each of the individual towers is a “GE 3.4-137” 3.4MW generator. The developers believe the units will average about 10,500MWh/year – an approximate capacity factor of 34.4%. An average US household uses about 10MWh/year.

Max Bögl Wind AG specializes in building some of the world’s tallest turbines. Its System 160+ (pdf) is able to gain these heights because it “includes a new segment geometry in the pre-stressed concrete tower base section and cylindrical rings used as middle sections.”

This project’s unique combination with a 40m (131ft) tall water tower is what pop’s these turbines to their record heights. The water towers are used as higher altitude reservoirs that are part of a pumped storage hydroelectric power station located 200m below the turbines. Wind power, at strategic moments, is used to pump water against gravity to store it in the reservoirs.

When needed, the water will be released to drive an electric current. The pumped storage plant can switch between producing electricity for the grid and storing water for later in 30 seconds. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 70MWh. A single US household can run on, roughly, this volume of energy storage for about seven years.

Significant research is going on in the industry to build these towers taller. Competitor Vestas expects to install a prototype at 241m (790ft) sometime next year. This tower will achieve its 790ft height without the concrete water basin. Further out research has designs of wind turbines as tall as the Empire State Building.

Research suggests wind farms with alternating turbine heights can lower the cost of energy generated at these farms by 5-9%.

Electrek’s Take

You often see me write about solar power innovation because I’ve been in the solar industry for greater than a decade now – 3/4 of my working career. However, as I’ve learned about the wind industry more – and have started following more closely in order to write for Electrek – I’ve become enamored with the technology and its potential.

While there isn’t as much wind on earth as there is sunlight for making energy, there are huge amounts of wind energy available – more than enough to power the world. Recent technology evolutions – floating wind turbines and wind+solar+energy storage hybrid powerplants – are giving the industry more opportunities to power our grid. Already, the US electricity grid gets greater than 7% of our electricity from wind power. Iowa gets more than 36%. With the US getting its first offshore farm and Europe powering 200 million households with wind, expect a lot more to come.

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