Wind power began emerging in Europe on a sizable scale in the 1990s and the next step is greater efficiency. Spain and Germany led the way and by no coincidence these two countries still have the highest output from such installations in the European Union.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the installed power output potential for the EU stands at 130,007 Mega Watts has now been overtaken by Asia who achieved 141,964 MW in 2014.
Whilst the wind generation element of the renewable energy sector is relatively mature it hasn’t seen the same equipment production cost reductions over recent years as solar PV. There is a view that with a greater focus on reducing the cost of wind production, significant gains can be made and a European research body called WINDTRUST has been briefed to do just that.
Areas for improvement
The team behind WINDTRUST aim to first reduce costs by improving turbine component reliability. The have placed a focus on improving three things:
- Rotor blades
- Power Electronics
- Turbine Controller
They believe they can increase durability of turbines and have started to use carbon fibre for these elements. Doing this alone will extend the life of the turbine to 20 or 30 years.
Work is also underway to improve turbine control which will help create a better balance between the fatigue experienced by the turbine and power production in order to maximise the life expectancy of the machine.
Power electronics will also be key to improving performance. Installing better predictive components will allow cheaper maintenance and allow the machine to be optimised according to its condition.
Higher costs, much higher output
The mix of solutions may actually end up with a more expensive turbine but there will be a disproportionate increase in production output and lowering of maintenance costs. This will deliver an overall reduction in the cost of the energy being produced.
Test are going to be conducted in Pamplona, Spain, using 2 MW prototypes. The team will then be able to run a live comparison with an existing facility to get the most accurate measure of the impact of their work.
The EU has 500m people and diverse meteorological conditions, so it is important that it is possible to ship the power from windy areas experiencing lesser conditions to spread the output.
Find out more here: WINDTRUST