Bringing the Power and Longevity of Ultracapacitors to the World’s Wind Turbines
May 26, 2015 | Wolfgang Beez, Sr. Business Portfolio Manager – Wind
I recently came across Wind Power Monthly’s article, The 10 Biggest Turbines in the World, which features some impressive turbines, including Enercon’s E126 7.5 MW onshore wind turbine and Repower’s 6.2 MW onshore/offshore turbine first installed in northern Germany. The advancements being made in modern wind technology are exciting to see as countries across the globe continue to adopt turbines as sustainable, clean fuel sources.
One advancement in wind turbine technology is the application of ultracapacitors in the turbine’s electrical pitch control system. We have seen the technology being adopted in electrical pitch systems as early as 1999/2000. Today we can count over 30,000 turbines that rely on ultracapacitors for fail-safe operations.
Onshore or offshore serviceability is a big challenge, especially when looking at offshore applications where costly turbine maintenance is done by boat or even by helicopter. Minimal maintenance, long life and a wide temperature range make ultracapacitors a great fit for wind turbines that are deployed globally in many different temperature zones and elements.
The adoption rate of ultracapacitor technology in wind turbines is growing steadily, reflected in a recent Navigant report. From the total 51,026 MW supplied globally in 2014, the top 10 suppliers in 2014 provided 36,301 MW (of 51,026 MW) of new installations. Based on these numbers, approximately:
- 41% of MW installed are wind turbines with ultracapacitor-based electric pitch systems
- 38% of MW installed are wind turbines with hydraulic pitch systems
- 21% of MW installed are wind turbines with battery-based electric pitch systems
Many of the electrical battery systems need frequent service and replacement, resulting in potential downtime and revenue loss of the turbine for service and maintenance. Operators and wind asset owners who replace batteries as often as every two to four years incur not only service and replacement costs, but also deal with logistics/stocking and recycling of batteries. Also, hydraulic systems have issues with many threaded connections and potential leakages and spills.
Looking at the future growth rate and the new turbine designs satisfying the global production targets, I believe we will continue to see more ultracapacitor-based pitch systems providing power, longevity, minimal service needs and improved profitability for wind asset owners and operators.
Sr. Business Portfolio Manager – Wind
About this author
Wolfgang Beez is Maxwell’s senior business portfolio manager for the wind group. He has over 15 years of domestic and international experience in product management, strategic planning, marketing communications and sales. He holds a Diplom-Ingenieur in mechanical engineering from Rhein Main University of Applied Sciences and an Executive MBA from Paul Merage School of Business from the University of California in Irvine. He is bilingual in English and German.
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