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How GE’s CTO empowered engineers to build the world’s most powerful wind turbine

The Haliade-X creates 45% more power than the largest existing product on the market, and it’s coming to Atlantic City.

How GE’s CTO empowered engineers to build the world’s most powerful wind turbine
[Photo: courtesy of GE Renewable Energy]

At a new wind farm planned off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, each turbine will be three times taller than the Statue of Liberty, and each blade as long as a football field. Prototypes of the massive wind turbine, GE’s Haliade-X, have been in testing in the Netherlands for the last year and a half. When the company started working on the turbines’ design a few years ago (after acquiring Alstom, a French company that had created an earlier version of the turbine), chief technology officer Vincent Schellings asked the engineering team to work on the largest possible machine; when they came back with an initial concept, he asked them to go even bigger. The resulting Haliade-X creates 45% more power than the largest existing product on the market, enough to power roughly 1,600 homes, making wind farms more efficient. “You face a lot of technology challenges because you’re going past boundaries that nobody has ever passed before,” Schellings says. That included rethinking the production line, since the components were so huge that human workers needed robotic assistance to produce and handle them. After GE proved that the technology could work, competitors, such as Vestas and Siemens, rushed to design similar products. “We were the first one to stretch our imagination and go for something that hasn’t been done before,” says Schellings.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley

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