For best results, shift focus
In planning wind installations, sometimes it's best to take a look around.
Show me a successful project planner and I’ll show you someone able to identify planning points that, if not managed right, are most likely to lead to headaches, dead ends, or flat-out failure. He or she can also ferret out the less critical planning points, the ones that can be easily and cheaply corrected later, if necessary.
When planning wind farms, almost all project elements fit the first description. The scale of the investment and nature of wind farms elevate the need for careful planning. There simply are almost no details that, if not thoroughly scrutinized up front, could plague you with problems and reduced profitability later.
Wind farm planners sometimes overlook technologies that could have a huge effect on the capability and profitability of their new installation. HVDC, for example, is a technology that can simplify the overall project design, reducing development costs and creating faster ROI. HVDC can be used in many applications, but it’s particularly well-suited to offshore installations like the ones being planned for New England. The undersea cables needed to interconnect the turbines and land the power are textbook examples of strong HVDC candidates.
HVDC also provides the increased capacity needed to handle the output of even very large turbine fleets. And FERC Order 1000 creates additional opportunities for profitable HVDC deployment. With this order in place, wind farm operators will be encouraged to consider new, more profitable — but usually more distant — inter-regional markets for their power. HVDC is well-suited to carrying energy to these markets.
Sub-synchronous Resonance (SSR)
While HVDC represents a new opportunity, SSR represents a potential and prevalent problem that must be considered and prevented. In a wind turbine (or other turbine generators), when the resonant frequency of the shaft coincides with a natural resonant frequency of the electrical system, it creates a cyclic exchange of energy between the mechanical shaft and the electrical system. This can create catastrophic torsional stress on the turbine generator shaft.
The time to identify resonance issues isn’t when the farm is commissioned. It needs to be identified in the planning stage. Fortunately, SSR is a condition that can be studied and, if necessary, easily compensated for. Doing that requires specialized tools and expertise available only from consultants with extensive wind energy expertise.
It takes intense focus to work through the thousands of details that are part of planning a wind farm. But don’t forget to shift your focus and look around at new technologies you may not have considered. They may offer untapped opportunities to establish a significantly more reliable and profitable wind energy resource.