Falling costs are driving a brisk expansion of wind generation projects worldwide, including Europe, where the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) expects installed capacity to grow by more than 190 gigawatts (GW) to 320 GW over the next 15 years.
That would meet about 24 percent of Europe’s electricity demand, more than double the 10 percent the region’s installed wind capacity of 130 GW can meet today, according to EWEA. Globally, wind generation accounted for 20 percent of all new energy installations in 2014, bringing cumulative global wind capacity to 370 gigawatts (GW) at the year end, claims the Global Wind Energy Council.
Look for challenges
The more renewable energy sources like wind come online, the greater their importance in the overall generation mix, and the more vital it becomes to fully comprehend the engineering challenges these installations present.
Given the speed of wind capacity growth (the International Energy Agency projects 15 to 18 percent of global electricity will be wind-generated by 2050), it is essential to ensure the performance of wind installations is not hindered by design and performance issues.
ABB has for many years been a major manufacturer of most of the core equipment and systems found in utility-scale renewable power plants, including transformers designed specifically for various types of renewable generation. Over time, ABB renewable energy experts have observed certain incidents and problems in renewable installations, including wind plants, which are the result of an incomplete understanding of equipment design and proper specifications.
In a paper they have outlined some of the most common sources of system disturbances and transformer failure in these facilities, including overvoltages, harmonics, transformer saturation, power factor, reactive power and voltage control, power ramp rate limits, and voltage and frequency performance.
ABB has provided studies and evaluations for all of these problems in order to resolve past issues and identify the technical solutions that can prevent future failure and equipment mishandling. ABB also has the expertise to review and help develop optimum solutions for interconnection requirements.
A holistic view
In many cases, avoiding future transformer problems boils down to taking a more holistic view of renewable plant, and specifying equipment with the particular characteristics of an individual installation in mind. In addition, up-front studies (for example, on harmonic load flows) can provide valuable insights for system and transformer design.