Manufacturing Wind Turbines: Three Considerations

Wind turbine OEMs have some critical decisions to make in manufacturing wind turbines. The demand for cost-effective, clean, renewable energy is at an all-time high. Wind energy is poised to meet the need, supported by ambitious carbon reduction targets and investments in clean energy production—but only if those ambitions are turned into actions. As long as corporate and governmental policies are supporting the pathway, wind power will be one of the quickest ways to achieve stated goals. 

2022 was the third-best year on record for the global wind power industry, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). While 78 GW of new capacity was installed, representing a 9% increase year-over-year, wind power must be installed five times faster between 2022 and 2030 to stay on a net-zero pathway. 

The energetic expansion of wind energy is contingent on a variety of factors, including localization, offshore growth, infrastructure resources and a global standardization on quality. Here are three of the most important considerations for wind turbine OEMs in this rapidly maturing industry:

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How do you efficiently expand into emerging markets?

How can wind turbine OEMs expand into new or emerging markets most efficiently? 

Location is one of the first considerations for wind turbine deployments. Generally, onshore wind turbines have dominated the wind market. However, there’s significant growth in offshore deployments, where larger wind turbines often generate three to four times the annual energy production (AEP). Although the infrastructure needs and costs of onshore wind farms are lower than offshore installations, the increased output from offshore turbines and the continued cost reduction will lead to steady growth in the offshore market. 

Currently, the top five markets for wind energy are China, the US, Brazil, Germany, and Sweden, according to the GWEC, but the other markets noteworthy to watch include Vietnam, India, and the Philippines. While they are in various stages on the journey to wind, these markets represent high potential, and we can expect to see increased investments in these emerging markets in the future. 

As wind turbine OEMs manage the balancing act of expanding into emerging markets while determining the best strategy to support growing onshore and offshore deployments, production location also becomes a critical consideration for wind turbine manufacturing. After all, localization is a critical piece of reaching the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE). Do you want to invest in the capital expenditures (CAPEX) required to enter a new market and all the risk that comes along with it? Will you handle the localized manufacturing and supply chain on your own or rely on other experts?  

How can OEMs manage quality standards in wind turbine manufacturing?

Back in 2017, a couple OEMs partnered to launched Advanced Product Quality Planning for Wind (APQP4WIND), a framework of procedures and techniques used for developing and manufacturing wind turbines. This framework is an essential part of eliminating cost production errors and reaching reductions in LCOE.

If you’ve had any experience in the automotive industry, APQP should sound familiar. It was originally founded in the late 1980s by a commission of experts gathered by Ford, GM and Chrysler.  

The key benefits of using the APQP4WIND framework are numerous:

  • Provides a preventative approach to quality
  • Enables the maturing of the supplier base globally
  • Supports standardization that leads to faster time-to-market
  • Contributes to profitable growth and reduces risk

As the wind energy industry matures, APQP4WIND provides a global standard for wind turbine manufacturing, the same way APQP has done for decades in the automotive industry

How can OEMs better orchestrate a localized supply chain?

Beyond the global standards developed to ensure quality, managing a localized supply chain can come with its own challenges. As the world learned in 2020 – and continues to experience – uncontrollable things like a global pandemic and natural disasters can drastically affect the supply chain and availability of skilled workers. 

Just as household appliance production screeched to a halt, component manufacturing slowed down due to disruptions in the supply chain, leading to major component shortages. There can also be limited access to specific, unique raw materials that are used for optimum efficiency and wind turbine output, such as printed circuit board assemblies.

Even when all of the needed resources are available, it typically takes about 24 months to plan and deploy an onshore wind farm. This includes the production and delivery of components, as well as orchestration of assembly and installation at the site. In addition to the supply of needed components, successful wind farm implementation also requires proper infrastructure, a skilled workforce and regulatory approval. In such a complex undertaking, several disruptions that can be prevented by moving the supply chain closer to the manufacturing plant can be a tremendous help.

Utility companies, especially, continue to seek faster times-to-market with new turbine equipment and increased energy output. But this can only be achieved when using proprietary and marketplace intelligence, optimizing specialized equipment and expertise, leveraging supply chain resources and using localization whenever possible. Strategic partnerships in these areas are critical to success in the clean energy space.

In a unique landscape that requires large investments, a manufacturing solutions provider like Jabil can be the perfect partner to manage your supply chain, sourcing and production and – most importantly – prevent disruptions from halting production.

Specialized Expertise Makes Wind Turbine Manufacturing Happen

Producing wind turbines is a multi-faceted operation that presents multiple challenges, particularly in the areas of construction and transportation.

When constructing a wind turbine that is expected to last 20 to 30 years, it’s important that every detail is managed by a team of individuals with specific knowledge in each step of the process – superior workmanship is required for both the individual components and the final product. This is especially true of the nacelle and hub, which houses the components that transform the wind’s kinetic energy into usable electricity. 

In addition, deployment of wind turbines can be a major logistical challenge. The multi-ton products are loaded onto specialized transport trucks (and water service vessels for offshore) and require proper infrastructure, including roadways that are wide enough and foundationally sound enough to support movement of these products to the wind farm site. This is especially true in remote countries like Brazil or India and other areas around the world.

The Envision Group, a smart energy solutions company, knows the enormity of these challenges. But it also knows the importance of high-quality innovation in wind turbine manufacturing. The extreme size of turbines creates a need for proper procedures during component sourcing, manufacturing and installation. That’s why the team has turned to Jabil for help.

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Envision's Global Footprint Expansion with Help from Jabil

Jabil-manufactured turbines represent significant wind energy capacity while strong supply chain experience helps customers reduce operating costs. With experience in key geographies, including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Poland and Vietnam, Jabil is uniquely positioned to help customers mitigate risks when entering emerging markets. For Envision, Jabil offered the opportunity to empower innovations and aggressive geographic expansion while adhering to rigorous quality requirements.

The opportunities to contribute to a greener planet and increase revenue continue to evolve as wind-powered energy is harnessed more and more efficiently. The future looks bright – and a tail wind is in the forecast.

Jabil's Wind Energy Solutions

Jabil has over 15 years of experience manufacturing high-level assembly components for wind turbines, including pitch control systems, converters, nacelle control systems and PCBAs. 

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