Weighing Your Wind Turbine Options: Retrofit, Replace or Repair?

I’m often asked about how much impact wind turbine control retrofits can have on overall operations, and how they stack up against replacement or repair. It’s simple: they can be a very cost-effective way to positively affect the performance and reliability of a single wind turbine, multiple turbines within a wind farm and fleets of multiple wind farms.

Pros and cons at a glance

As wind turbines age and become less reliable, utilities have three options:

  1. Replace aging assets—a costly and time-consuming activity
  2. Repair—this can often be hampered by difficulty obtaining replacement parts for legacy controls that lack the sophistication to connect to modern automation platforms and smart grid systems
  3. Retrofit—often the optimum solution as it is an efficient and cost-effective option that with the right modern software and technologies can provide full access to operational data. This vivid view of wind turbine operations offers greater insights into equipment health and optimization opportunities, and ultimately the production of more energy, resulting in higher revenue for a faction of the cost of investing in repowering existing turbines or purchasing new ones.

 The experience of one wind farm operator who initially attempted to repair a poorly performing wind turbine illustrates how turbine retrofits can energize operations.

Challenge: Getting to the root of the problem

A US-based renewable energy provider purchased a decommissioned Vestas V44 turbine that had been sitting unused for two years following several performance issues, including multiple outages and low availability.

The company rebuilt the hydraulics, pitch system and brakes; tweaked the original control system; and also performed smaller tasks such as changing fluids, rewiring and cleaning the turbine. Despite these efforts, there were still issues with the existing wind turbine controller, including:

  • Difficulties acquiring spare parts
  • Random controller faults
  • Controller ‘overload’
  • No remote connection
  • No feasible repair options
  • Issues with a faulty rotor current control unit

It was clear another course of action was required. The company turned to a control retrofit solution.

Solution: Reaping results and ROI with Emerson’s wind turbine retrofit solution

The energy provider selected a plug-and-play Ovation Green wind turbine controller retrofit solution, featuring the high-performance WP3500 controller platform from Emerson. The solution uses the latest software and technology innovations and included a service app tool designed specifically to speed up the maintenance work tasks for service personnel. This solution enabled the energy provider to override the faulty rotor current control unit and pump up power and made all data available through the Ovation Green SCADA software.

Commissioning took six months—much shorter than what is typically required—and was conducted by the customer’s engineers with online and phone support from Emerson wind experts. After retrofitting the V44, the turbine performed at nearly 100 percent availability. The service app was used for periodic maintenance tasks and received high grades from the service team for its functionality and high user-friendliness.

Emerson offers a holistic approach to wind turbine retrofits that helps utilities cost-effectively increase extend operating life and increase annual energy production. To learn more about how automation and software technologies are helping to increase wind turbine and wind farm performance, visit our Wind Turbine Control Retrofit page. And if you’re weighing the pros and cons related to retrofitting, replacing or repairing, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn to explore these options in more detail.

#OvationGreen #software

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