Smart turbines

Smart turbines

Wind turbines are destined to become smarter! Senvion and the Berlin University of Applied Sciences have joined forces to research the wind turbine of the future. They should stabilise the electricity grid and operate in a 'pack' like a single power plant.

Broadly speaking, the first wind turbines functioned in the following manner: propeller drove dynamo, which simply fed electricity into the grid. "We would like wind power to be independent of coal-fired power plants," says Dr.-Ing. Jan Kruse, project manager at Senvion. "In the future, our turbines should be capable of feeding electrical energy in line with the requirements at any given time. And they should take care of everything that large-scale power plants have done in the past for stable electricity grids."

To turn this vision into a reality as soon as possible, Senvion's Research and Development division has co-operated with the Berlin University of Applied Sciences. The 'Wind Power Plant' project has three objectives:

1.) Wind turbines should be equipped with a new type of control system at the converter, which ensures that electricity is fed precisely in line with the requirements of the grid.

2.) All the turbines in a wind farm should be interconnected so that they 'stand as one' – like a single power plant – at the farm's connecting point. To achieve this, each wind turbine must co-ordinate intelligently with the others.

3.) The turbines should become capable of isolated grid operation. In other words, they should be able to form a grid independently.

Experts agree that if the grid-stabilising effect of large-scale coal-fired or nuclear power plants diminishes further in the energy transition, then alternative generators of electricity will have to make a greater contribution to grid stability. "Senvion intends to be a pioneer here, too," says project manager Jan Kruse. "We hope that co-operating with the researchers at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences will give rise to new approaches. The most promising will then be developed further for practical application."


Simulations in the laboratory

The Berlin University of Applied Sciences is developing a large laboratory for the 'Wind Power Plant' project, where researchers can simulate entire wind farms on actual components like generators and converters, as well as on mainframes. As project manager at the university, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jens Fortmann is continuing the work he started at Senvion, where until recently he was responsible for the substantive aspects of grid simulation.

Professors Klaes (power electronics), Schulte (control systems) and Twele (structural dynamics), as well as five research assistants, two laboratory engineers, and students of renewable energy and electrical engineering are now assisting him with the groundwork in Berlin: "We want to discover what changes need to be made to wind turbines for the grid to remain stable without the many synchronous generators of conventional power plants," said Professor Fortmann.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is sponsoring the 'Wind Power Plant' project. It is taking on 40 per cent of the cost (up to a maximum amount of 1.3 million euro) at Senvion. The research project should be completed in mid-2019. Jan Kruse: "We are already looking forward to field testing the first pilot projects. We want to actively shape the future of wind energy."