Recent wind power generators from ABB combine a standard-base construction with customized interface connections to lower costs for turbine manufacturers and shorten delivery times. “It all began when our market intelligence revealed big changes taking place in the wind turbine industry,” says ABB R&D Manager for Wind Power Generators Raimo Sakki. “Previously, such generators had proprietary components, custom-designed to fit an individual manufacturer’s turbine. Turbine manufacturers were showing interest in standard generators – provided they were designed for wind turbines.”
So ABB made the decision to complement its proprietary generators with a new range of standard units based on its own platform. Market surveys helped detail requirements. While the new generators would be standardized as much as possible to maximize the benefits of large-scale production, they also needed flexibility to accommodate different manufacturers’ interfaces. ABB chose a modular approach, building the required interface flexibility around a core made from a relatively small number of basic components.
“The most difficult task was defining the basic design requirements,” says Sakki. “With that done, we could get on with development work which was made easier because the new products are based on the proven technology of our earlier designs.” The company began building the first prototype, but soon faced a new challenge. “Potential clients began giving us their requirements. As a result we ended up ‘aiming at a moving target’ and making several different prototypes.”
The first product family built on ABB’s standard platform is the new 1.5 to 2.0 MW slip-ring generator series. Launched in June 2010, the new generators have been developed to fit most doubly-fed (DF) turbines. They feature an enhanced rotor design with patented carbon-fiber winding-end support rings. This feature enhances overspeed tolerance and improves cooling of the rotor winding and connections, resulting in better overall reliability. The company says the new platform is easily expandable and serves as a basis for permanent magnet (PM) and induction generators.
In September 2010, the company launched another product series, the 2.5 to 3.5 MW high-speed PM generators, which shares the same basic platform as the DF series. In fact, they are mechanically interchangeable (i.e., wind-turbine manufacturers may use the same drivetrain design for both types of generators). This makes it easy for turbine manufacturers to expand their existing DF offering to also include full converter PM turbines. A customer using a DF system who would like to test a PM generator can order a unit with identical fixings and interfaces that can be simply ‘slotted in’ to replace the DF unit.
“One major benefit of the standard-platform approach is that development cycles speed up,” says Sakki. “That means faster prototype-delivery times for clients. Previously, a custom designed generator would typically take nine months to develop. The standard platform now cuts this time by about half. The engineering work alone has been reduced from four months to just four weeks.”
From the outset, the new generators were developed for a global approach to design, sourcing, and manufacturing. They can be manufactured at all ABB’s wind power generator plants, for instance, and sold to clients anywhere around the world.
“For example, a buyer in China can talk to our people in China, and the engineering work can be done in the local office there. The bulk of the work is therefore done as close as possible to the customer.”
Filed Under: Generators, News