Connections on the wind
Ensuring an adequate energy supply is one of the greatest technological challenges of the new century. By 2050, twice as much primary energy will be required worldwide compared to today. The finite nature of fossil fuels and the desire to reduce greenhouse gases are driving the further development of regenerative sources of energy. This not only requires new installations, but also cost savings through energy efficiency: an objective that can only be achieved through superior technical solutions. HUBER+SUHNER offers three technologies for wind energy that can help achieve these goals.
The future of wind energy has already begun. Not least because, in contrast to solar energy, wind energy can continue to be produced overnight and therefore offers great potential. Around 25,000 new wind turbines are being installed each year. And the efficiency of existing plants is also being improved. In Germany, for example, wind turbines that have been in operation for 10 to 15 years are being replaced by new ones on an incremental basis. The aim of this “repowering” project is to generate more power using new onshore generators while simultaneously increasing energy efficiency. Half of the new generators operating at twice the capacity will then provide three times the power. As a result, the current average 1.6 MW output from onshore wind turbines will rise to 2 MW over the medium term. “From a purely technical perspective, outputs of 6 to 10 MW are actually already possible,” explains Hanspeter Schiess, Market Manager for Wind at HUBER+SUHNER.
Optimal energy yield
Where wind power is concerned, however, the most important factor is not maximum output, but the optimum energy yield. Wind farms must therefore be set up to meet constantly changing wind conditions. Rotor blades, for example, need to be perfectly aligned at all times in order to reach their optimal rotational speed. To achieve the highest possible yields from wind power, therefore, operators need to keep a close eye on the data provided by the wind turbines, even in rough conditions. After all, the turbines are – naturally – exposed to wind and weather conditions at all times and are also in constant motion. This places extremely high demands on the cabling used. “The larger and more efficient a wind turbine, the more important it is to use resistant and, above all, maintenance-free cables,” says Hanspeter Schiess. “Using poor-quality cables often results in turbines standing idle for maintenance, which operators simply cannot afford.”
Efficient wind turbines
Efficient wind energy production therefore requires maintenance- free cables, both within the tower itself and between the individual turbines. Preassembled fiber optic systems are used in the interior of wind turbines to connect the control unit at the base of the tower with the nacelle for monitoring and control purposes. “Since installation needs to be quick and easy, our HUBER+SUHNER products are designed using the plug-and-play principle,” says Hanspeter Schiess. The physical limits of copper Ethernet connections became evident in the wind turbine towers, which can be up to 170 metres tall. The benefit of glass fiber is that it is immune to the electromagnetic fields from the energy cable and can transfer data without interference. And, as systems within the wind turbines are constantly checking and evaluating a wide range of internal processes, there is certainly a lot of data to transfer. “The nacelles of some wind turbines even include cameras for system monitoring, which requires yet more bandwidth for data transfer,” explains Hanspeter Schiess. “Another plus point for fiber optics.” Achieving optimal alignment of rotor blades also requires robust energy and signal transmission. The RADOX® Wind low frequency cable from HUBER+SUHNER has been developed specifically to meet the high requirements for
installation in nacelles and towers. Despite the high mechanical loads to which they are subjected, through torsion for example, these cables are highly reliable and long-lasting. This helps to prevent faults and removes the need for costly cable replacements.
Cabling of entire wind farms
The cabling of entire wind farms for remote maintenance or highly precise central monitoring of the facility is also growing in importance. Under this arrangement, up to 100 wind turbines are linked together to form a wind park management system that transfers data to the control centre. In some cases, this is done using fiber optic solutions from HUBER+SUHNER such as outdoor cables, splicing enclosures or patch cables. As an alternative, HUBER+SUHNER also offers radio frequency products such as antennas, lighting protection components or jumper cables for wireless networks. “We provide robust, customer-specific, integrated system solutions from one source. In short, we provide the interfaces within and between wind turbines,” summarises Hanspeter Schiess.
Wind market continues to grow
The wind market is continuing to grow throughout the world and its potential is enormous. In 2012, around 2% of the world’s energy needs were met by wind power. This figure is expected to double by 2016 and quadruple by 2021. The main driving force is coming from China and the USA, as well as European countries including Germany, Spain, France and the UK. India, Brazil and Eastern Europe are also making increased use of wind power. The need for connectivity products will therefore continue to rise in the wind market. However, only premium-quality solutions will be able to meet the challenges of providing a secure energy supply. Connections from HUBER+SUHNER are at the leading edge of these continuing developments.
Connecting the energy of the future
Energy efficiency plays an important role in wind and solar power. The use of smart power grids and energy storage facilities are also crucial for ensuring a continued energy supply. HUBER+SUHNER connects these future energy sources using special connectivity solutions, both for the specific requirements of conventional energy suppliers and the components in solar panels,wind turbines and wind parts exposed to the elements