Understanding Power Generation from Wind Turbines through its Components
Wind turbines come in different designs, sizes, and architecture.
Myth 2: Wind turbines are simplified assets with not much complexities
Wind turbines are complex asset structures. Large wind turbines have up to 8,000 components which involves a large number of assemblies and sub-assemblies with complex configurations. Therefore, appropriate asset management and asset configuration practices are needed to manage.
Let’s try to understand how wind turbines generate power by understanding the role played its key components:
Image source: https://www.britannica.com/technology/wind-turbine
- Tower: Tower is the base structure on which wind turbine is placed
- Blades: Blades rotate as wind passes through them to convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity. Number of blades per turbine can be 2, 3 or more based on design
- Rotor: Rotor holds all the blades together and it rotates along the bearing driven by blades which are powered by wind
- Main Shaft (Low Speed Shaft): Main shaft connects from rotor to the gearbox and is rotated by the blades. It is also referred to low speed shaft.
- Gearbox: Gearbox is very important component of a wind turbine. It has multiple gears which converts the low speed rotation of blades into a very high-speed via High Speed Shaft which drives the generator
- Generator: Generator is an equipment linked with the gearbox which converts the mechanical energy from the wind turbines into the electrical energy which is sent to grid via power cable
- Nacelle: Nacelle housing is the box which covers the whole turbine train together
- Anemometer: Measures the wind speed and transmits wind speed data to the controller
- Yaw System: Yaw system is the mechanism which rotates the rotor blades along the tower so that rotor blades face the changing wind direction. There is also a pitch system between rotor and blades which adjusts the angles of the blades to take the best advantage of the prevailing wind
- Brake System: Disc brake to bring the turbine to a halt when required for maintenance or other reasons. Also helps to control the speed of the rotor blades from very high wind speed which can damage the wind turbine
- Controller: The controller is the brain of the system. It is responsible for the speed control of the generator, determines the pitch angle, controls the yaw motor to face the wind direction, and controls the power electronic interfaces
There are multiple design variations however most wind turbines have most of these parts and they broadly work in a similar manner.
Myth 3: Larger the wind turbine blade, higher is the power generation and lower is the cost of production. Hence larger wind turbines are always better
Larger wind turbine produces more power and appears to make more sense from economy of scale perspective, however larger the size of blade, lower the stability, safety, and life of the system. Moreover, the cost advantages of economies of scale are offset by higher maintenance costs.