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Enabling More Affordable Wind Energy

( 05/01/2019 ) Written by: Nick McEldowney

Industry experts predict that if the current pace of wind turbine use growth continues, by 2050 one-third of the world’s electricity needs will be fulfilled by wind power. As global demand for energy increases, wind power and its advantages continue to garner interest as an economical source of energy.  Wind turbines process a nearly inexhaustible resource to generate electricity with zero pollution.  

How Does A Wind Turbine Work?

A simple wind turbine consists of three main parts, the blades, shaft and generator. The principle behind wind turbines is very simple—wind turns the blades around a rotor (connected to the shaft) which then spins a generator to create electricity.

  • Blades: The blade acts as barriers to the wind. When the wind forces the blade to move, some of the kinetic energy from the wind is transferred to the rotor.
  • Shaft:  The shaft is attached to the rotor and spins with it, this transfers the kinetic energy into rotational energy.
  • GeneratorA generator uses this rotational energy to pass magnets over coils. When the magnets pass over the coils an electrical potential, or voltage is produced in the coils. As voltage is induced across a loop, an electrical current is produced. Using the principals of Faraday’s Law , electricity is produced and can be converted to useable energy.

What exactly is the difference between a Kilowatt (kW) and Kilowatt hour (kWh)?

A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of power, while kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of energy. Power is the rate at which energy is generated or used. Energy is a measure of how much fuel is used by something over a specific period of time.

Think of it like driving to the beach on a warm sunny day. The road to the beach is 100 miles long and you really want to get there in 1 hour. As you drive, your speed will go up and down depending on traffic. This speed is like the kilowatt (kW). When you reach the beach on time, you’ve traveled 100 miles in 1 hour. The distance you traveled in 1 hour is like the kilowatt hour (kWh). So, even though your speed changed over time (like power), your distance traveled in 1 hour was still 100 miles (like energy).

So back to electricity, using a 1 kW (1,000-watt) microwave for an hour would consume 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy. This would be equivalent to energy consumed by ten 100-watt light bulbs turned on for 1 hour.

The power output of a wind turbine depends on the turbine size and the wind speed through the rotor. An average onshore wind turbine with a power capacity of 2.5–3 megawatts (MW) can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year – enough to supply 1,500 average households with electricity for one year.

What Does It Cost to Run a Wind Turbine?

Operation and maintenance (O&M) costs constitute a sizeable share of the total annual costs of a wind turbine. For a new turbine, O&M costs easily make up 20-25% of the total leveled cost of energy (LOE) per kWh produced over the lifetime of the turbine.

Despite this hefty percentage, the cost to operate wind farms is far lower than the operation costs of power plants, and replacing fossil fuel power plants with wind turbine farms provide a net benefit of up to $16 billion a year in the U.S. However, as with many things, as wind turbines age they cost more to maintain, and operators are focusing on improving performance optimization to help mitigate the increasing cost of management. Previously the lifespan of a wind turbine was 20 to 25 years; however, new technologies are increasing that to 40 years.

Vibration and motion challenges continue to affect maintenance and are driving a need for wind turbine generator mounts and other parts that are easy to install, provide a long service life, reduce the transmission of vibration and are maintenance free.

Why Elastomeric Parts are Important to Maintenance?

Untamed vibrations can shorten component life, loosen bolts, cause weld failures, and contribute to gear and bearing failures. Because blades and nacelles (or housings) are perched 200 to 300-feet up and at the end of a tower that sways in the wind, maintaining them requires effort and costs. Therefore, elastomeric parts must work reliably for long periods to minimize maintenance.

Imagine having to climb 300 feet up (and back down) each windmill in a field of 1,000 to inspect and maintain the equipment. You would want the most reliable and maintenance-free equipment possible. Using longer lasting mounts reduces the amount of maintenance needed, and for workers reduces the time spent in potentially dangerous situations.

Vibration Control Solutions for Wind Energy

Wind-turbine manufacturers are looking for methods to increase production, decrease costs and provide reliable solutions on the production line and in the field.

In addition to controlling vibration, these elastomeric parts encourage compliance between working parts.

On wind turbines parts don’t necessarily move in tandem but could shift in different directions depending on the wind direction and load conditions. The parts are specifically engineered to allow for this compliance while still transferring the torque that creates electricity.

Collaboratively designing anti-vibration mounts for precise performance and long service life with no maintenance required, our engineers can create products to meet almost any specification. 

Center Bonded Mounts.  These mounts isolate vibration, control shock and reduce noise due to structure-borne vibrations. Available in a full range of rated load capacities and able to withstand shock loads of 10 g’s, they effectively protect equipment and improve operator comfort.

Gear Box Bushings & Generator Mounts.  Our mounts and bushings isolate vibration, control shock and reduce noise - improving wind turbine component life and productivity.

 

Coming Soon! Visit us again soon for Part 2 of this series about noise and wind turbines.

Noor Bokhari, a Marketing and Communications Intern at LORD, contributed to this blog. 

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