Efficiency, performance and compatibility the key to cost effective wind-driven energy

The increasing demand for energy worldwide casts uncertainty over the future of mankind and the planet Earth.

August 8, 2012

The increasing demand for energy worldwide casts uncertainty over the future of mankind and the planet Earth. It is a situation that is driving a need for simplified, innovative and sustainable solutions across all levels of energy consumption and conservation.

Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management, is developing wind energy technology solutions that have considerable benefits over conventional power generation in terms of efficiency, zero greenhouse gas emissions and renewability.

Pumeza Tshangela, business development manager at Schneider Electric South Africa says while wind energy internationally has grown at a steady 20 percent over the past 10 years, a major obstacle to the adoption of wind power generation has been the expense, as significant amounts of capital are required.

“However, by focusing on efficiency and performance, we have developed a wide range of wind power systems that reduce the capital outlay and increase productivity by striking a balance between bulk and adapted products, offering high quality standards and flexible, customised solutions.”

Running a wind farm is no easy task and it requires high quality products, expertise and experience through the life cycle of the equipment. Tshangela says Schneider Electric now offers integrated electrical solutions for every stage of the process starting from the wind turbine up to the grid connection of a complete wind farm. “Regarding the wind turbine, the company offers a reliable and efficient main power circuit, an automated control of the turbine to optimise a wind farm operator’s efficiency, and components for all of the auxiliary circuits. The wind farm medium-voltage collection solutions ensure optimised equipment safety and availability, while efficient and reliable connection to the main grid is achieved for any size of farm onshore or offshore.  Schneider Electric also offers real-time power monitoring and management supervision services,” she says.

“The objective is to provide a complete and reliable electrical infrastructure that enables wind farm operators to achieve highly reliable service continuity through products designed specifically for wind power generation.”

As an example, Tshangela stresses that the Schneider wind farm products, including the contactor and the low-voltage circuit breaker, are designed together to reach Type 2 co-ordination. Should over-voltage occur, it ensures that one piece of damaged hardware will not harm another.

The Xantrex converter is designed specifically for wind farming and is highly efficient. The DVCAS switchgear is designed to fit through doors as narrow as 600mm, can be installed in wind turbines up to 2,000m above sea level and comply with the relevant IEC and UL standards while meeting the needs of networks up to 36kV (IEC) and 38kV (UL).

Much attention was paid to the main power circuit to achieve improved service continuity, and heightened safety with integrated switchgear and transformer substations.

“Capital and operating expenses can be reduced by up to 25 percent through power factor correction and harmonic mitigation, while business performance is improved with reduced downtime and extended equipment lifetime,” adds Tshangela.

The number of countries that have a renewable energy policy in place has risen to 42 and the ongoing focus on climate change, dependence on foreign energy sources and the cost of energy continues to increase.

Tshangela points out that efficiency alone can make the difference between a successful wind turbine and one that fails. “Hence our focus on the ability to supply all of the components required and our support for full automation of wind turbines using programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and high-reliability uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes), that lead to heavy reductions in maintenance costs and enhanced safety.”

With multiple turbine installations, the harvested energy needs to be collected before it is sent to the power station. To execute this safely and efficiently, an MV collection system is needed, including transformers, switchgear and customised pre-fabricated substations.

“Schneider has designed all of these products to work together, ensuring electrical, mechanical and communication compatibility, all of which reduce cost and increase efficiency,” concludes Tshangela.