Control is Critical Factor for EfficiencyWed, 02/22/2017 - 10:01
Behind every megawatt-hour of wind power injected into the grid there is a ton of planning, generating, connecting, transmitting, monitoring and controlling. To facilitate these processes, wind operators make use of advanced technological equipment that must be designed with all possible operational variations in mind. For that reason, leading suppliers of electric equipment for the wind industry are companies with strong R&D cultures.
ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, invests around $1.5 billion annually to fund the R&D activities of its 8,500 technologists in seven corporate research centers. The amount of resources invested in technological development seems to be paying off as ABB’s products are used by top companies in different sectors, including wind energy. “As a global player, ABB has the portfolio to help customers from the inception of the projects, through specific software packages, to services offered during the wind park’s life span,” says Armando Negrete, Energy Leader Wind Power of ABB México. “This means ABB works with all different systems, subsystems and elements of a wind farm to get the best balance on technical performance and return on investment. From equipment in the turbine’s nacelle to the connection to the grid, covering all new requirements on grid code and power quality, ABB helps to capture wind energy with the highest efficiency.”
The critical factor for all wind projects is control. Without it, efficiency is reduced and an imbalance becomes probable. “Control is critical across the project. Imagine wind farms as large fields with several subsystems, which include subtransmission and transmission power systems. All elements have to be coordinated in such a way as to deliver efficiency despite all possible variations. It is necessary to balance the system to optimize it and get the energy in the most efficient way to the network,” Negrete says. In both wind and solar applications, there are technologies that require specific, tailored products and companies are looking for reliability to produce quality results. “There are some considerations that need to be taken into account in both cases but once the power is generated there are certain similarities too,” Negrete says. “In solar, the curve between day and night is predictable and within a range, whereas in wind the curve is not that predictable and has a narrower range. Each control system is therefore designed to those types of considerations. In both cases ABB provides the level of safety, reliability and sustainability to deliver excellent results.”
One of the added values that ABB brings to wind energy projects is its expertise in electricity transmission and distribution systems, which has allowed it to develop products to cope with wind’s intermittency and comply with increasingly stricter grid codes. “We have a product known as STATCOM (Static Compensator). The implementation of the new grid code is recent in Mexico and people are just becoming interested in our solutions. In the UK, where they have had a stricter grid code for longer, ABB has a large installed base. The technology is not new but the application is. We have growing expectations for this technology in Mexico. We are determined to remain the leader of Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS) technologies in Mexico, now also in the renewable energies sector,” says Negrete.
CRE released the new Mexican grid code in early 2016 as mandated by the Electricity Industry Law, introducing stricter interconnection requirements as a strategy to move Mexico’s power network closer to international standards. The code includes new requirements for reactive power compensation to ensure the stability of the transmission network, which is more complex with intermittent sources like wind. ABB’s STATCOM helps renewable power producers to meet these new requirements by increasing power transfer capability through enhanced voltage stability, maintaining smooth voltage profiles under different grid conditions. Negrete expects the demand for its grid code compliance products to increase as the industry digests the implications of these new rules. But power production optimization needs to be considered from the early stages of the project. “The earlier we can intervene the greater value we can add.”