WESTBOROUGH, Mass., May 21, 2002 — American Superconductor Corp., a global supplier of superconductor products and power electronic converters for the electric power industry, and GE Industrial Systems, a business of the General Electric Co. recently announced the first sale of AMSC’s new D-VARà¢â€ž- voltage regulation system for a wind farm application.
The system was purchased by PacifiCorp to regulate voltage at the Wyoming Wind Energy Project, the largest wind farm in the State of Wyoming, which is connected to the Foote Creek substation.
AMSC announced separately recently the introduction of its new D-VAR solution, which is being jointly marketed to U.S. utilities by GE and AMSC. A D-VAR, or “Dynamic VAR” system is a mobile, distributed power resource that utilizes AMSC’s proprietary power electronic converters to inject precise amounts of continuous and instantaneous reactive power (measured in VARs) into transmission grids to solve voltage regulation and dynamic voltage stability problems.
As a source of clean, renewable energy, wind power has fostered great interest as one answer to the nation’s growing electricity needs. Because wind patterns vary over time, wind turbines can cause wide fluctuations in voltage at their point of connection to the power grid, which can cause grid reliability problems. In addition, wind generation controls and systems are sensitive to voltage disturbances caused by external events such as capacitor switching.
“We thoroughly evaluated three major vendors of voltage regulation devices,” said Craig Quist, transmission planning principal engineer at PacifiCorp. “AMSC’s D-VAR system was the most cost-effective solution for integrating this wind farm into the regional transmission grid. What really helped was AMSC’s forward-looking technical approach to solving the voltage control problem.”
“Last year was a record year for the U.S. wind industry, with almost 1,700 MW of new wind capacity installed in this country,” said Randall Swisher, executive director, American Wind Energy Association. “There are many excellent locations in North America for wind farms, and we expect wind to continue growing rapidly for years to come. We are projecting 100,000 MW of wind capacity developed in the U.S. by 2020.”
“With growing interest in renewable energy sources like wind power, it is vital that such plants are able to tie into the nation’s power grid without causing reliability problems,” said Greg Yurek, chief executive officer of American Superconductor. “Our D-VAR system eliminates this problem allowing grid operators to maintain a highly reliable network that meets the needs of their customers. This product, used alone and in conjunction with our D-SMES product, provides customized solutions for voltage stability problems in large power networks.”
Voltage Stability Challenges at Wind Farms
Capacitors are often used as an economical way to create VARs, but when used in wind farm applications, they have the drawback of causing wear and tear to gear boxes in the wind turbines. Each capacitor switching “event” causes an instantaneous change in voltage that causes excessive torque on the wind turbine’s gear mechanism.
These frequent changes can cause premature failure of the gear box. In addition, capacitors alone are not a viable solution because of the tremendous volume of switching that would be necessary to maintain required system voltage levels. High volume switching of this nature can cause premature failure of the capacitors and/or capacitor switches and lead to increased maintenance and repair costs.
Used in conjunction with capacitors, D-VAR provides a unique benefit because of its ability to integrate with existing and future planned capacitors. Although the D-VAR device can drastically reduce the number of required capacitor switching events, PacifiCorp elected to use the device to eliminate damaging step voltage changes and to control local capacitor bank switching.
PacifiCorp’s Foote Creek Wind Farm
SeaWest Wind Power Inc. operates the 183-turbine Wyoming Wind Energy Project which is connected to the PacifiCorp Foote Creek substation in south- central Wyoming. The wind farm is currently producing 135 megawatts of power, which is enough electricity to meet the needs of up to 25,000 homes.
Annual average winds run approximately 25 mph at the Foote Creek Rim location, making it ideal for wind energy projects. Most other projects rely on sustained winds typically only in the 15-20 mph range, giving the Wyoming site the potential to generate more electricity. PacifiCorp, a utility based in Portland, Ore., owns 41.4 megawatts of the Wyoming Wind Energy Project and they also operate the transmission system that hosts the wind farm.
PacifiCorp also owns 50 megawatts of generation capacity at the neighboring Rock River I wind facility. Electricity generated by the farm is used to power homes and businesses in communities in the six states served by the utility.
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, PacifiCorp is one of the West’s largest electric utilities providing power to 1.5 million customers in six states throughout the West. As one of the lowest cost electricity producers in the country, PacifiCorp generates about 8,200 megawatts of energy from coal, hydro, gas-fired combustion turbines, geothermal, cogeneration and renewable wind power.
The company continually works to meet the growing energy demand while protecting and enhancing the environment. For more information on PacifiCorp visit http://www.pacificorp.com.
About GE Industrial Systems
GE Industrial Systems is a producer of manufacturing products used to distribute, protect and control electrical power and equipment, and supplying product and service solutions for commercial, industrial, residential and utility applications.
GE Industrial Systems is one of GE’s major businesses. GE is the world’s largest diversified technology, manufacturing and services company with a commitment to achieving worldwide leadership. For further information, visit the company at http://www.GEindustrial.com.
About American Superconductor
American Superconductor Corporation is developer and manufacturer of products using superconductor wires and power electronic converters for the electric power infrastructure.
American Superconductor’s products, and those sold by electrical equipment manufacturers that incorporate its products, can dramatically increase the bandwidth and reliability of power delivery grids, reduce manufacturing and operating costs, and conserve resources used to produce electric power. Founded in 1987, the company is headquartered in Westborough, Mass. For more information, visit http://www.amsuper.com.