Is the electrical drivetrain one of the most vulnerable parts of the wind turbine?

Approximately one-third of all wind turbine failures are somehow related to the electrical drivetrain

Although the wind turbine looks quite simple, it is actually a complex electro-mechanical process that includes thousands of components and hundreds of different connection interfaces. As with any integrated system, some of the components are more important than others – the electrical drivetrain is one such component and it is made up of a combination of various technologies and elements from the fields of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering. The electrical drivetrain is an integrated sub system that consists of sub components such as generator, converter, transformer and switch gears.

This means that you must have a multi-disciplinary expertise as well as detailed and specific know-how about all these sub components in order to be able to understand the interfaces and their possible interactions correctly. Without this expertise, you may face unwanted surprises and turbine failures due to incompatibility issues.

What are the most typical wind turbine failures?

It’s a good question but difficult to answer. The truth is that there is no simple answer because each wind turbine model in practice is unique and is, given the number of components (often produced by different suppliers), incredibly complex. Today’s situation however, is that turbine failures tend to be one of the wind power industry’s best kept secrets.

One way to get a better idea about this topic is to explore Reliawind‘s failure data and statistics. This information is publicly available and collected from wind turbine OEMs and component suppliers. Perhaps the statistics do not tell the absolute truth, but they do provide one of the most realistic views about typical wind turbine failures. The statistics show that the contribution of the “power module” to the total failure rate of a wind turbine is approx 33% annually, resulting in an averaged down time of 38%. When we look at the statistics in more detail, the most vulnerable parts of “power module” include the electrical drivetrain components, resulting in an annual failure rate of 31% and averaged down time of 37%. Hence, we can say that the electrical drivetrain is one of the most vulnerable parts of the wind turbine.

Does turbine OEM need to accept and bear all these risks alone?

Typically an electrical drivetrain is a system of sub components sourced from multiple suppliers. Even though a component supplier tends to have a detailed understanding about their component, they do not necessarily have a system level understanding of the complete electrical drivetrain. If a component supplier can’t take the overall responsibility for the integration of the electrical drivetrain sub components, then the turbine OEM must take it as well as bear the risks.

ABB has all of this essential electrical drivetrain expertise, knowledge and decades of experience. Thanks to our in-house joint R&D, we can either supply proven electrical drivetrain sub components as well as a complete electrical drivetrain package to you, our customers. We understand not only the technology but also the global standards, grid codes and the turbine certification processes. In this way we can help you to achieve a more predictable performance, more economical designs and ensure time to market designs.

P.S. “Knowledge is experience everything else is information” – Albert Einstein.

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About the author

Jari-Pekka Matsinen

I’m the Global Product Line Service Manager responsible for the wind converter after sales business segment in Product Group Drives Service at ABB Drives Business Unit in Helsinki, Finland. Prior to this role I’ve held various global positions in wind converter Research & Development and Sales & Market management departments at ABB. I joined ABB in 2001 and ever since I’ve been worked in the field of wind industry segment. I like the challenges and trends in wind industry, and I’m focused about on finding the optimal solutions and services for our customers helping them to find sustainable ways for a better wind economy. In my spare time I enjoy exercising and traveling.
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