OWI-Lab demonstrates importance of cold climate tests

In the context of the event 'Optimising Wind Farms In Cold Climates' which took place on 17 and 18 October in Antwerp, OWI-Lab welcomed a delegation from the wind industry. The event focuses both on the commercial and technical complexities, which form an obstacle for the operation of wind farms. This was perfectly demonstrated in the climate chamber of OWI-Lab.

The wind industry is evolving in two main directions: new, and bigger turbines including new technologies and new, more extreme markets. These trends mean wind turbines and their components need to be designed, manufactured and tested in all conditions to meet the performance and reliability requirements during their lifetime - typically twenty years.

Notably, wind turbines are increasingly being confronted with freezing conditions that can be found in many regions of the world. Sometimes wind turbines in those climates need to be disconnected and restarted. It is, therefore, essential to test components for a cold restart.

Transformers

Transformers in multi-megawatt wind turbines are critical components just like the gearbox, generator or convertor. The transformer is one of the main components that first sees if electric power is flowing. During testing in a climate chamber, the transformer can be exposed to the extreme temperatures and correlating pressure and thermo-mechanical stresses of arctic conditions. A climate chamber is indeed a test chamber where climatological circumstances can be applied in a controlled environment.

In the test programme of the OWI-Lab climate chamber, it is possible to verify whether the transformers can, in these circumstances, be connected to the high-voltage network and whether the electrical isolation system and the materials used are appropriate for the relevant temperature specifications. Finally, the test programme can show at which rate the power can be increased in case of a cold-start-up scenario and check whether the wind turbine can be ramped up to full-load within four hours.

Reliable testing

In order to get detailed insights and proven reliability of prototype developments, a transformer prototype is set up in the same harsh conditions (sometimes down to -40°C or even lower), but in a climate chamber like the one at OWI-Lab in Antwerp. Besides tests under climatological circumstances, the testing facility of OWI-Lab can also provide the necessary voltages and currents and thus conduct a total system test as if the wind turbine transformer were installed in Canada or Scandinavia.

Such a test campaign at low temperatures was recently attended by a delegation of manufacturers, owners and service providers in the wind industry during a visit to OWI-Lab in the context of the event 'Optimising Wind Farms In Cold Climates'. They had the opportunity to witness the effect of low temperatures and icing on key components for themselves. Besides the wind turbine transformer, samples of anti-ice coatings and ice detection were also tested on small wind turbine blades.

“Testing the performance in extreme conditions of components is an essential step forward for the next generation wind turbines going global in a sustainable and reliable way", said Jan Declercq, head of research and development at transformer supplier SGB-SMIT.

(Source: Windpower Monthly)

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