London, May 3, 2010 – With the wind turbine emerging the fastest growing energy source in the world, there has been a continuous rise in the size of wind farms and capacity of wind turbines.
Electric drives in wind turbine generators are a popular choice among industry entrants who are looking for cost-effective solutions that will help them produce power efficiently and achieve the return on investment desired, while meeting grid code requirements.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Outlook for Electric Drives in the Wind Power Industry, finds that the industry earned revenues of $1.6 billion in 2009, and estimates this to reach $4.10 billion in 2015.
Electric drives in wind turbine generators are a popular choice among wind farm owners because these drives do not contain any part that requires maintenance.
“The goal of electric drives is to avoid the complexity of a multistage gearbox by employing variable speed generators and solid-state electronic converters that produce utility-quality alternating current (AC). This will help achieve compactness and thereby, less maintenance,” explains Frost & Sullivan Program Manager Abhishek Gokhale.
There has been a marked preference for direct drive systems in the last couple of years. Variability and intermittency of wind are encouraging suppliers to deploy direct drive technologies with full power converters systems. This will give them higher energy efficiencies, lesser maintenance than conventional gearbox machines and more power output.
“Market entrants from European countries and China are adopting direct drive technologies, which simplifies the nacelle systems, augments reliability and efficiency as well as avoids gearbox issues,” adds Abhishek Gokhale. “Wind turbine suppliers are designing technologies that are lighter and more cost-effective than the conventional geared drive trains, and these are expected to drive the new installations.”
Scientists are also developing new systems for guidance, control and connecting the turbines with power grids. Wind farms are located in remote areas, while the greatest power demand is from cities. This means that the power supply depends on a robust transmission grid. However, with the proliferation of wind farms, transmission lines could be hard to procure.
Lack of transmission line infrastructure particularly affects the North American and Asian regions. Therefore, future wind power plants will not only support the grid by delivering fault ride capability as well as frequency, voltage and volt-ampere-reactive (VAR) control, but also carry a share of power control capability for the grid. Modern designs of generators and electric drives are likely to be customised to suit WT operation.
Taking into account their energy yield and reliability, direct-drive generator systems with electric drives are expected to be more suited to wind turbines than geared drive systems, especially for offshore applications, in which maintenance is a huge concern. Electric drive manufacturers can position themselves to control a share of the growing electric drives used in double-fed induction and permanent magnet generators.
“Some of the established turbine suppliers already have in-house capabilities to manufacture 20 to 40 percent of their drive requirements in-house,” notes Gokhale. “However, there is a huge opportunity from the end-user markets of new entrants and wind turbine generator suppliers that outsource their electric drives requirements.”
Global Outlook for Electric Drives in the Wind Power Industry is part of the Power Transmission Growth Partnership Services program, which also includes research in the following markets: motors, drives and controls. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.