Making Wind Turbines More Efficient

September 25, 2017 // A complete revision of the architecture currently used for controlling wind turbines: this is the approach behind the “eco4wind” research project which is based on a partnership between engineering service provider IAV, as lead partner, and Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Ruhr University of Bochum and Senvion GmbH. The aim is to improve the energy efficiency of wind turbines, make the supply of energy more reliable and to unlock new installation sites.

The architecture used for supervisory and closed-loop control of wind turbines has changed relatively little over the last 20 years or so. “This means that the potential of new high- performance turbines cannot be exploited to the full”, explains Dr. Axel Schild, in charge of eco4wind activities at IAV. “The project partners want to use the latest research results from several specialist areas of control engineering and automation technology to provide state-of- the-art technology for operating wind turbines.”

eco4wind’s main objective is to develop an innovative real-time supervisory controller based on nonlinear model predictive control that provides a completely new and intelligent way of planning and controlling plant dynamics. “This is equivalent to a technical revolution because real-time supervisory control can replace the conventional way of controlling speed and power output as well as damping tower and drive train oscillations”, says Professor Dr.-Ing. Rolf Findeisen, project manager and holder of the Chair for Systems Theory and Automatic Control at Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg. “This will enable wind turbine operators to use their existing turbine infrastructure far more efficiently in future.”

The higher energy yield in conjunction with lower material costs will reduce levelized costs of energy (LCOE) by at least two percent. Power supply from wind turbines will also become more reliable. The demand for balancing energy will decrease and wind turbines will even be able to provide balancing energy themselves. “On top of this, the results from eco4wind will facilitate new turbine designs, which will allow to access previously unprofitable sites”, says Dr.-Ing. Jens Geisler, senior expert in control engineering at Senvion GmbH.

The eco4wind project is divided into seven work packages that benefit from the specific experience and expert knowledge of the five partners from industry and research. “Besides new basic methodology and broadening existing theory, the focus here is also on developing new control concepts and real-time-feasible algorithms”, reports Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Mönnigmann, project manager and holder of the Chair for Control Engineering and Embedded Systems at Ruhr University of Bochum. “The new components will then be integrated into a real-world platform and assessed in simulations and field tests.”

In the frame of the project, the partners aim to achieve three central results: a fully-fledged infrastructure implemented in prototype form for controlling wind turbines (hardware and software); a fully designed engineering tool-chain implemented in prototype form that will enable OEMs to integrate the new real-time control system in their own wind turbines; and test data from one of the wind turbines operating on the basis of the new methods.

The project partners want to use their involvement in eco4wind to make German companies more competitive on the international stage and strengthen the leading position German research institutes hold in this domain. “We expect that the project’s results will help and
speed up the shift in Germany’s energy policy towards decentralized renewable energy and energy efficiency”, says Prof. Dr. Moritz Diehl, project manager at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg where he is in charge of the Control Engineering and Optimization Laboratory. “This will benefit the entire renewable energy sector – in other words, also the many businesses that are not involved in the consortium.”

The eco4wind project was launched in January 2017 and will be completed in December 2019. In total, it is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to the tune of around € 3 million.