future view

TNO is working on the largest wind turbine ever

28 February 2019 • 4 min reading time

It is the largest and most powerful wind turbine in the world – the Haliade-X, from GE Renewable Energy. Over the next five years, this turbine will be tested on the Maasvlakte (a large seaward extension of the Port of Rotterdam, created by land reclamation). With an unprecedented capacity of 12 megawatts, just one of these turbines can supply sufficient energy for more than 16,000 households. TNO is closely involved in the tests. The decision to build this turbine in the Netherlands offers huge opportunities for the Dutch business community.

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GE and TNO have a longstanding relationship. For many years, GE has been using TNO’s sites in the Wieringermeer polder to test wind turbines on land. These organizations have previously cooperated on Research & Development projects aimed at breaking through aerodynamic barriers and opening the way to turbines with capacities of 10 MW and more. The knowledge they amassed in the course of that work helped lay the foundations on which the development of the Haliade-X was based. This turbine stands no less than 260 metres tall, and has blades of a record-breaking 107 metres in length.

pushing the boundaries of physics

We are extremely proud that GE has chosen us as its research partner for this extensive turbine testing programme,” says Dr Peter Eecen, Wind Energy programme manager at TNO. “We need innovations in a range of different areas to develop turbines with capacities of 10 MW and above. Take aerodynamics, for example: the science of how air flows around things like rotor blades. In this area alone, we are encountering new limits in physics. We are constantly having to develop new models, which then have to be validated by means of an extensive series of measurements. These are just some of the innovations we are tackling together with GE.”


The first Haliade-X prototype has been installed on the Maasvlakte. The Port of Rotterdam Authority, SIF, GE and TNO cooperated closely to select a suitable testing site. A land-based testing site might seem an odd choice for a turbine that is ultimately destined to be installed at sea, in large numbers. However, wind conditions on the Maasvlakte are virtually identical to those out at sea, which makes this site an ideal test location. GE and TNO will perform validation measurements to verify that the Haliade-X can indeed live up to the promises, and as a prerequisite for certification. Until they are certified, these turbines cannot enter large-scale production, nor can they be installed out at sea.

Knowledge for future generations

In addition to certification testing, GE and TNO will be working on a number of innovations in the upcoming period. Given the sheer size and weight of this new generation of wind turbines, highly specialized ships will be needed to install them. This holds out great opportunities for the Dutch offshore industry. New tools and models will be needed to make the maintenance work involved even more cost-efficient.

“In terms of size, the turbines and the rotor blades are of an entirely different order of magnitude than anything we have seen so far. The measurements and tests we are conducting on these new turbines will deliver new knowledge that we can use for the next generation of machines. We rank among the world leaders in this area, and we intend to use that position as a springboard to further expansion. In addition to serving the interests of new business,” says Peter Eecen, “this will boost employment and strengthen the Netherlands’ knowledge economy”.

Not just wind turbine innovation

TNO is not focusing exclusively on innovations for the new generation of wind turbines. It is also developing expertise on wind farms and on ways of integrating them into our rapidly changing energy system. This work covers areas such as new installation technologies, optimal maintenance and intelligent wind farm control systems, as well as innovations in fields such as robotics and IT.

The goal is to have at least 11.5 GW of installed capacity at sea by 2030. It is wind farms equipped with massive turbines like the Haliade-X that will help us achieve this ambition.

We also put a few questions to Vincent Schellings, CTO & GM Product Management – Offshore Wind at GE.

What prompted GE to join forces with TNO?

TNO is an internationally respected player in the wind power industry, and it has proved to be a highly effective partner for GE in the past. My involvement dates back to 2005, when we successfully started testing numerous onshore prototypes in the Wieringermeer. So when it became clear that the Haliade-X prototype was to be built in Rotterdam, the obvious thing to do was to approach TNO again.

Why was Rotterdam chosen as the site for the Haliade-X?

Rotterdam has a number of advantages in this respect. It is favourably situated with regard to logistics and it has a site on the coast with “almost offshore conditions”. Finally, there was the prospect of assistance from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, which provides financial support for innovative projects like the Haliade-X. Then there is our client, Futurewind. Like our other partners, the Port Authority and the Municipality of Rotterdam, Futurewind has the unshakeable conviction needed to make this project a success.

What does GE expect from this cooperative venture with TNO in the upcoming years?

For GE, the most important aspect of this joint venture is the opportunity it provides to combine GE’s expertise with the knowledge of TNO. That will enable us to validate and eliminate any technical risks involved, as quickly as possible. In this way, we will be able to complete the large-scale installation of this wind turbine within the foreseeable future. Our customers will then be able to benefit from the cost-of-energy reductions that the Haliade-X can deliver.

This TNO project supports the following Sustainable Development Goal

Learn more about wind as a durable source of energy

Read more