There’s good news and not-so good news from the recent AWEA WINDPOWER 2013 conference in Chicago. The not-so good news is that the crowds and exhibition floor were smaller than in past events. The good news, however, is that most of the right people were in attendance and perhaps better than that, the companies that did display, showed new equipment and developments that indicate a technically vibrant industry.
In general, condition monitoring is getting a lot of attention from several companies. UpWind Solutions, for example, announced its Sentinal monitoring hardware capable of sending turbine operating conditions to a central location for analysis. ABB made several announcements involving ways to smooth out transient frequencies from a wind-farm substation along with a modular transformer for stepping up generator voltage. It can be delivered in 14 to 16 weeks rather than the industry standard 23 weeks and at lower cost.
During a factory tour, S&C Electric demonstrated how their smart electrical equipment–intelligent interrupters– could detect a fault and quickly isolate it so that a large section of a city need not be disconnected before correcting the fault. ZF Services also gave factory tours of its 2.5MW test bench that will be able to test over 200 gearboxes annually.
Red Lion discussed the necessity of data networks that keep information flowing from turbines even when one is suddenly removed from operation, either by a lightning strike or a fiber optic cable cut by a construction error. The company says the data network can heal itself in as little as 30 ms.
ICONICS showcased its newly released GENESIS64 SCADA V10.8, designed to use Windows 8 user interfaces, smart tile application organization, and 3D graphic hardware acceleration. The HMI/SCADA automation suite can be used in warranty and asset performance applications, including monitoring and control.
New turbine news came from GE and Gamesa. GE announced orders for its recent development, collectively called Brilliant, that lets turbines share information so their controls can fine tune the entire wind farm. Some of these turbines will also get batteries with MWh capacities to store power and smooth its delivery. Gamesa announced 2.0 and 2.5 MW, long-blade turbines for low wind areas. The units will be manufactured in the U.S.
Let’s turn to the subject of disruptive technology. If you’ve seen graphs that describe the intensity of development in a particular field versus time, it looks like the slope to a plateau. Initially, inventions come quickly and the discipline develops and matures, as the wind industry has over the last 10 years. But developments have reached a plateau where the news involves only tweaks and minor changes.
A few companies might be classified here. The Aeroscraft lifting body could shake up transportation and logistics of heavy turbine components. Its developers say the air ship will be able to pick up three turbine blades at the factory (60 tons is the capacity goal) and deliver them to the job site at up to 100 mph, and at a cost to easily rival conventional trucks. First flight is scheduled for about 2016.
Another potentially disruptive development will be a permanent magnet generator that allows lowering the weight of a driveline to lower than that of a conventional gearbox and generator of similar size. Boulder Wind Power is now testing the unit, a 12-m dia. space-frame generator. The unit is undergoing tests and development. WPE