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Dissecting Wind Availability: Why Isn’t My Wind Turbine Spinning?

Posted on by Kurz Industrial Solutions

wind turbine gif

It’s Dan Frantz again!  I’m back to writing after a few trips to AWEA conferences (San Diego and Houston) on top of a ton of positive changes at Kurz. If you haven’t been able to check out some of the informative work I’ve compiled over the last couple months, feel free to check out Episode 1 of our Kurz Wind Podcast here.

I’ve received a lot of questions over the last few weeks with the most intriguing being:

Why would a wind farm stop producing power?

The term “availability,” as used in the wind industry, is a measure of the potential for a wind turbine or wind farm to generate electrical power. If the turbine is “available” and grid-connected, and the wind and other conditions are within the turbine specification, then power will be generated.

In short – if there is Wind that can be captured by the Wind turbine, is the turbine connected to the grid and producing power?

Availability can illustrate a few of the following:

 

  1. Wind isn’t blowing

In general, wind not blowing hard enough is the most likely reason that a wind turbine would not be spinning. Wind turbines like slow and consistent winds- not gale force winds.  The capacity factor (the % of the time the wind is blowing) is an important factor when considering building wind farms.

  1. Reliability of the Wind Turbines.

Are all the complex mechanical and electrical parts of the tower safely running without failures? If you’re getting 13 meter/second winds, is the turbine producing power?  Depending on the Turbine type, this can range from 1MW to 5+MW of on-shore energy production which translates, on average, to 4-6,000,000 kw hours of energy per year per tower – enough to power 1,500 homes.

Common failures that cause the turbine to shut down are carbon brushes, slip rings (or collector rings), pitch motors, and even pitch batteries (which can be replaced with ultracapacitors).

  1. Wind Technicians

Wind in the USA has made strides to empower and train their technicians with corporate safety training, technical initiatives, and yearly bonuses based on energy production and availability.

However, with the industry growing so quickly, hiring, training, and keeping top talent is a challenge. Knowledgeable talent is hard to find, and top technicians can rise in rank quickly.

  1. On-Site Substation and Electricity Distribution

Sometimes, electrical parts can fail in the substation – the location where energy from the Wind Turbine is distributed to the grid.  In the case of failures with BOP (Balance of Plant) parts, the dispersion of energy across the grid can be completely shut down.

Imagine having 100% availability with all your wind turbines and there’s a breaker down disabling your site from producing power? As such, the technology connecting the Wind farm to the grid is constantly advancing in reliability and performance.

5. The Grid

Sometimes, the grid will already be at electrical capacity and won’t purchase power from the Wind Farm.  In this case, it does not make economic sense to produce power while spending money to operate the machines. In this case, the Wind Farm will stop producing power until the energy will be purchased and utilized.

Here is the good news – electrical storage technologies are quickly adapting to the difficulty of storing wind energy. For more information, I’ll defer to Wind Power Engineering here.

6. Power Purchase Agreements

One of the biggest factors in the operations of a wind farm is the PPA (power purchasing agreements) that are in place. Most sites have a long-term agreement (example: 20 years) with a major utility. For those that do not, they are on the “open market” where any utility can purchase from them when they need to.  Do you think a utility is more likely to purchase power on a 70-degree day in April or a 20-degree day in January?  In this case, the January timeframe would be the more likely.

 

If the “open market” wind farm is not profitable, they will prevent their turbines from producing power.

 

Dan Frantz
Outside Sales – Wind Division
dfrantz@kurz.com

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