With these advanced test benches powered by GE, you don’t need a second chance in the renewables industry
Reducing carbon emissions is a global issue, which was recently bought to the forefront globally at December’s COP21 conference. There, world leaders announced a 1.5 degree climate change ceiling, meaning that renewable energy must take a greater part in the world’s energy mix. Wind power has a key role to play in meeting this target, saving over 608 million tonnes of CO2 emissions globally in 2014.
The substantial cost of installing wind turbines, substructures and various other components alongside the longer-term costs of grid integration and a reduction in government funding, means that reliability and cost-effectiveness of wind farms across their life span is vital, especially if wind power is expected to compete with fossil fuels. This is where a test bench comes into play.The very nature of a turbine’s job means that it encounters constant stress from wind, rain and other elements. However, unforeseen excessive loadings of the mechanical components can lead to a reduction of the product’s life expectancy. This is not acceptable for both customers and investors, which are looking for reliable and profitable solutions.
Customers expect to receive products that perform according to the required specifications straight away. Over the past decade, the time it takes to develop turbines has reduced dramatically, however, any delay could still be costly. Therefore, it is imperative that turbines and the accompanying technology are tested prior to deployment, so that malfunctions and errors are not discovered in the field during operation.These delays can be avoided by simulating the worst-case conditions before turbines are deployed in the field, using test benches. It also reduces time to market, as you don’t have to wait for the right wind and weather conditions to carry out testing, allowing for simulations in a controlled environment.
Testing is a key element in the renewables supply chain and should not be overlooked or underestimated. The testing stage should be thorough, as it will reveal how a wind turbine will react under both predictable and unpredictable conditions. For example, wind load testing units can put stress on the turbine, bending it to varying degrees to identify stress points, something that would be catastrophic were a malfunction or break to occur during operation.Grid simulation can also be carried out to ensure a turbine’s Fault Ride Through capability works as predicted. This ensures the product can operate under even the weakest grid conditions, minimizing lost revenue.
Testing control and protection systems at the first stage also allows for more detailed, dedicated, single-component oriented test sequences on load-carrying components like main bearings, yawing systems and gearboxes. It is also possible to simulate drive chains and converters, which will be used in the field, so it is possible to predict how it will behave once deployed. All of this is repeatable, as the test bench can be used for future turbine deployments.At GE’s Power Conversion business, we understand the importance of the testing phase, which is why we’ve developed specific Wind Test Systems that are capable of testing nacelle units before delivery. Our range of drives, electrical machines, test and simulation software allow a wide range of scenarios to be tested before the units leave the factory, meaning customers know they’re using reliable technology before it even reaches their door.
Stress testing individual components, such as gearboxes, generators and converters, as well as simulating issues which may be encountered during cabling and installation, is crucial to this process. Also, performing the test bench visualization, control, cabling and installation – everything from a single source – GE’s execution capability spreads over a wide spectrum of activities.GE has supplied test bench systems to various customers within the wind industry looking to reliably simulate working conditions, including the Institute for Power Generation and Storage Systems of the E.ON Energy Research Centre at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University. The test bench systems are used to evaluate power electronics converters and high-speed drives up to 5 megawatts in power and will directly help the university’s research in to Future Electrical Networks. Germany is a leading country for investment in universities researching wind technology. GE is also supporting the training of engineers in the region, further supporting the growth of renewable energy.
Another remarkable reference is GE’s turnkey contract with the Lindoe Offshore Renewables Center (LORC), a Danish center for testing renewable energy technology, for the commissioning of a highly advanced facility to test wind turbine nacelles with an output power of up to 10 megawatts.Wind power has the potential to reduce emissions on a global scale, but only if it is considered a feasible option. It is estimated that one 6-megawatt offshore turbine could power 5,000 houses per annum. However if the turbine fails, the rest of the grid could struggle to cope. Therefore, if advances are to be made in wind power, it is essential that the basics are met in order to secure a greener, more cost-effective renewable future.