Big challenges need brave answers
For over a century transformers have been the quintessential work horse of electrical grids – but as the world moves to solve the climate change conundrum in search of more renewable energy, innovative transformer technology will be part of the solution
Floating wind farms comprise of wind turbines mounted on floating structures in off-shore locations in water depths where fixed-foundation turbines are not feasible. They have the potential to significantly increase the global sea area available for offshore wind farms.
Transformers are key electrical components that adapt voltage levels of electricity to reduce losses and maximize grid efficiency. In the case of wind farms, the ideal location for transformers is inside the wind turbine tower. ABB’s engineers have specifically designed the WindSTAR transformers that are extra resilient against strong vibrations and extreme and sudden movements encountered in locations such as towers of floating wind farms and off-shore platforms, while keeping them compact and light weight.
The WindSTAR transformers will be installed in the WindFloat Atlantic windfarm in 2019, a project of MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). The 8.4 megawatt (MW) wind turbines at the windfarm off the coast of Portugal will be 190 meters tall to blade tip, more than double the height of the Statue of Liberty. They will be the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbines ever installed on a floating foundation.
Nevertheless, in some other demanding situations where fitting the transformers in the lower parts of the tower is not sufficient, they must be placed higher in the limited space within the nacelle of the wind turbine. ABB also has a solution for such scenarios – Dry-type transformers. They are especially suitable for reducing the risk of oil-spills and fires and provide maintenance free service in these confined spaces of a wind turbine nacelle. These are designed with a vibration-proof configuration and an insulation system to minimize the footprint and prevent continuous overloads from aging the transformers.
Additional challenges that transformers for wind and solar applications face are a high level of harmonics and voltage spikes. In the case of solar photovoltaics, electricity is generated in its DC form while we use AC power. Converting DC to AC requires power-electronics based inverters, which are known to produce harmonics, a type of electrical pollution. ABB’s engineers have built in special features in its solar transformers for dealing with harmonics and DC voltage components, as well as reducing transients that originate in solar inverters.
ABB’s liquid-filled “fit-for-purpose” transformers are designed to pair with various solar inverter sizes to optimize the performance, reliability and return on investment of any solar installation.
Finally, it is digitalization of transformers that will also contribute to dealing with the various challenges of renewable power such as unpredictability and quick variations of the energy source as is the case with wind and solar power.
This is just a glimpse of how transformer technology is bracing itself for integrating renewable energy and provide answers to some of our most pressing challenges. To know more read the complete article from ABB Review- Transformers in renewable applications or contact us.
The future of energy is complex, demanding and yet exciting. Innovative Transformer technology helps to prepare for the future, today.