Senvion: wind power in diverse climes

Senvion and Rittal will continue collaborating on solutions for wind turbine servicing and maintenance.

Senvion’s wind turbines can be found across the globe, including in Canadian forests, remote Australian villages, and the North Sea. They are designed to generate electricity for over 20 years. To this end, their electronics must operate reliably, and be shielded against cold temperatures, excessive heat and dust. The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is now opening up entirely new possibilities for operating and maintaining turbines – including solutions developed in close collaboration with Rittal.

“We enjoy a very good relationship with Rittal, with excellent support. If we have any questions, we quickly receive high-quality answers.” Hauke Reimers, Head of Electrical Product Engineering, Senvion

Local climate determines requirements for each wind turbine

To date, Senvion has manufactured more than 6,600 wind turbines. Many were produced under the enterprise’s former name REpower, which it changed to Senvion in 2013. REpower is regarded as a trailblazer in wind energy, and can trace its roots back to the 1990s. Today, Senvion has 3,700 employees in 16 countries, across four continents.

Its portfolio includes both onshore and offshore solutions. As an example of the former, 150 wind turbines have generated climate-neutral electricity for approximately 70,000 Canadian households over the past three years. And in enormous offshore wind parks, individual units can power up to 6,500 homes; even the smallest turbines now boast an output rating of two megawatts.

Each turbine must be tailored to the ambient climate. At the Lac Alfred project in Quebec, Canada, for example, winter temperatures can drop to a bone-chilling −30°C. Heating systems prevent ice from forming on the rotor blades and causing imbalance. The electronics must also be protected from the cold: enclosure interiors are heated to ensure they remain approximately 5°C. In contrast, at the Mount Mercer wind farm in the Australian state of Victoria, heat is the problem, not the solution. At times, many thousands of amperes of electricity flow through the power electronics in the enclosures. The waste heat from these components must be efficiently and reliably vented by means of fan-and-filter units, even in sizzling summer conditions. Moreover, in agricultural regions, enclosures must effectively protect their sensitive contents from dust.

Quality control is essential

Each wind turbine component must perform its function effectively at all times. Consequently, Senvion carefully inspects all incoming goods, including Rittal enclosures. In some cases, Senvion itself creates a precise wiring diagram for these products using Eplan Electric P8 software. Each turbine has a total of ten to fifteen enclosures. One of the most important is the top box, located in the nacelle. It is employed to monitor the drivetrain, and to control nacelle orientation. Shielding it from vibrations is vital – so Rittal developed a special version of its TS 8 enclosure with a mechanically reinforced mounting plate and lock system.

The bottom box – the counterpart to the top box – houses additional components for control and monitoring. In the majority of turbines, this is also the location of the frequency converter, which is installed within a row of enclosures. The converter steps down turbine-generated electricity to the frequency required for grid feed-in. Rittal’s TS 8 enclosures are ideal for this task. They can be flexibly extended in any direction by adding units to create a row. Furthermore, they are highly robust, and resistant to corrosion and mechanical damage.

Development in the age of Industry 4.0

The wind turbines regularly transmit operating data to the central Senvion database. This information not only provides insight into how well the system is currently functioning – it also indicates when parts subject to wear need to be replaced. This applies, for example, to the fan-and-filter units in the enclosures. Precisely timed replacements mean lower maintenance costs.

A further Rittal solution is fan-and-filter units equipped with EC (electronic commutation) technology. This has a number of advantages, including low power consumption. The fans, and their rotational speed and performance, can be monitored and managed via an integrated interface. This enhances energy efficiency, and extends service life.

Rittal has also worked closely with Senvion to create new enclosure cooling units. Specifically, Senvion wants to test active chillers from Rittal’s new Blue e+ product line. Because each Blue e+ chiller is assigned its own IP address, Senvion can, in future, capture data for all sensors in a given unit, at any time. Moreover, Rittal’s RiDiag diagnostics software will enable the units to transmit and receive information via USB or over a network. Diagnostics software improves operation, generating significant savings – and cooling units that feature this technology will be essential to Industry 4.0 solutions.

Senvion and Rittal will continue collaborating on solutions for wind turbine servicing and maintenance. Rittal’s innovative enclosures, with state-of-the-art communications, and the company’s ability to provide reliable service and support across the world, will play a key role.