ABB solutions keep wind power energy costs competitive

Wind and solar don't cost the earth

Renewable energy technologies are rapidly advancing and as they grow increasingly cost-competitive compared to traditional power generation, the business case for renewables is strengthening and creating new opportunities for countries to transform their energy systems.

The falling cost of generating electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar was detailed in a joint report last year by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency (Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition), which calculated the cost of producing electricity from different types of new power plants.

The report found that the cost of generating electricity from renewable technologies – in particular solar photovoltaic – have declined significantly in the past five years, and are no longer cost outliers in the power generation sector.

In the effort to reach this competitive level there is intense scrutiny of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) in the renewables sector, which means companies are looking for every possible way to cut costs and keep them low over the lifetime of an installation to be more competitive.

Systems reduce costs

That is where ABB’s systems approach to renewable technologies like wind and solar generated power are invaluable. For example, ABB designed and for more than 15 years has delivered a modular system solution for the electrical part of the wind turbine subsystems, which is used in thousands of turbines the world over.

These ABB auxiliary systems comprise motor control and protection products, including circuit breakers, short-circuit current limiters, motor starters, contactors and relays. These systems adjust pitch and yaw systems to ensure maximum power output, and control lighting, cooling, lift and hydraulic systems, and can operate on the same nominal voltage (690V) produced by the turbine’s main power circuit.

The advantage of this solution is it reduces turbine costs for motors and motor control systems, because the higher voltage (690V) of these systems reduces the electrical current and means a transformer is not needed to operate them.

This not only eliminates the direct additional cost of a transformer, but avoids the inevitable power losses that result from a transformer’s operation. A modular approach to subsystems also results in smaller, lighter more efficient installations that are much easier to service, reducing turbine downtime during maintenance.

Preserving and protecting assets

ABB solutions can lower the LCOE of wind power installations in other ways as well. For example, ABB’s coordinated, high-performance breaker and contactor solution utilizes Emax air circuit breakers and AF contactors to increase the safety of the turbine’s electrical drive train, reducing downtime and asset risk, and protecting power quality.

ABB also provides complete, coordinated protection for wind power assets to minimize the risk of severe damage and expensive downtime caused by lightning strikes and overvoltages. These include state-of- the art, low-voltage surge protection devices (SPDs), medium- and high-voltage surge arresters (SAs), as well as earthing and lightning protection (ELP) materials.

ABB is a global market leader in the wind power sector, with decades of experience and proven products, systems and services that solve the highest technical challenges, while reducing LCOE.

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About the author

Adrien Fournier

I am a wind segment manager within Electrification Products division, located in Seoul, South Korea. Working in ABB since 10 years.
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