Wind Turbines

Its been pretty windy recently, So wind farms are probably doing quite well at the moment. The biggest wind farm in the world, at the moment, is the London array, which can produce 630MW of power.

Wind Energy in General

The future is very encouraging for wind power. The technology is growing exponentially due to the current power crisis and the ongoing discussions about nuclear power plants. Wind turbines are becoming more efficient and are able to produce increased electricity capacity given the same factors.

Facts & figures:

There is over 200 GW (Giga Watts) of installed wind energy capacity in the world.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has forecasted a global capacity of 2,300 GW by 2030. This will cover up to 22% of the global power consumption.

Converting wind power into electrical power:

A wind turbine converts the kinetic energy of wind into rotational mechanical energy. This energy is directly converted, by a generator, into electrical energy. Large wind turbines typically have a generator installed on top of the tower. Commonly, there is also a gear box to adapt the speed. Various sensors for wind speed, humidity and temperature measurement are placed inside and outside to monitor the climate. A controller unit analyses the data and adjusts the yaw and pitch drives to the correct positions.

The formula for wind power density: 

W = d x A^2 x V^3 x C  

d: defines the density of the air. Typically it’s 1.225 Kg/m3. This is a value which can vary depending on air pressure, temperature and humidity.

A^2: defines the diameter of the turbine blades. This value is quite effective with its squared relationship. The larger a wind turbine is the more energy can be harnessed.

V^3: defines the velocity of the wind. The wind speed is the most effective value with its cubed relationship. In reality, the wind is never the same speed and a wind turbine is only efficient at certain wind speeds. Usually 10 mph (16 km/h) or greater is most effective. At high wind speed the wind turbine can break. The efficiency is therefore held to a constant of around 10 mph.

C: defines the constant which is normally 0.5 for metric values. This is actually a combination of two or more constants depending on the specific variables and the system of units that is used.


Why the need to measure the local climate?

To forecast the power of the wind over a few hours or days is not an easy task.

Wind farms can extend over miles of land or offshore areas where the climate and the wind speed can vary substantially,
especially in hilly areas. Positioning towers only slightly to the left or right can make a significant difference because the wind velocity can be increased due to the topography. Therefore, wind mapping has to be performed in order to determine if a location is correct for the wind farm. Such wind maps are usually done with Doppler radars which are equipped with stationary temperature and humidity sensors. These sensors improve the overall accuracy.

Once wind mapping has been carried out over different seasons, wind turbine positions can be determined. Each turbine will be equipped with sensors for wind direction, speed, temperature and humidity. All of these parameters, the turbine characteristics plus the weather forecast, can be used to make a prediction of the power of the turbine using complex mathematics.

wind-turbine-controlThere is a small weather station on the top of this wind turbine

The final power value will be calculated in “watts” which will be supplied into power grids. Electricity for many houses or factories can be powered by this green energy.

Why the need to measure inside a wind turbine?

Wind farms are normally installed in areas with harsh environments where strong winds are common. Salty air, high humidity and condensation are daily issues for wind turbines.

Normal ventilation is not sufficient to ensure continuous operation. The inside climate has to be monitored and dehumidified by desiccant to protect the electrical components against short circuits and the machinery against corrosion.

Internal measurements are required to ensure continuous operation and reduce maintenance costs of a wind farm.

Philip Robinson                                                                                                       Rotronic UK

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