Drives and Controls Magazine

Drive system gives wind turbines a lifetime stress test

07 June, 2011

A Spanish test laboratory is using a medium-voltage drive system to conduct accelerated life tests on wind turbine components. The installation, at the National Renewable Energy Centre (Cener) in northern Spain, simulates the conditions that wind turbines experience during an operating life of 25 years or more.

Cener claims to be Europe’s most modern facility for testing renewable energy technologies, and includes a 30,000m2 wind turbine laboratory which tests blades, powertrains and composite materials for turbine manufacturers, wind farm developers, financial institutions and other customers.

One of the laboratory’s five test centres evaluates powertrain components including shafts, gearboxes, brakes, brake pads, generators, converters and nacelles. The components are subjected to accelerated life tests that run 24 hours a day for several months to simulate the mechanical, electrical and thermal stresses that the components will face during a 25-year lifecycle.

The test benches are powered and controlled by a multi-drive system that includes transformers, induction motors and variable speed drives. As well as controlling the motors that power the test benches, the multi-drive system acts as a network simulator that generates the required frequency and absorbs the electrical energy.

The Cener installation is based on ABB’s ACS 6000 variable speed drive technology and an AC 800PEC high-performance controller that simulates the wind conditions.