How to maintain the renewable energy industry through cost-effective solutions for test and electronic maintenance.
The renewable energy industry continues to expand driven by an ever-increasing demand for cleaner alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuel options. National renewable energy markets are projected to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond. Some 120 countries have various policy targets for longer-term shares of renewable energy, including a 20% target of all electricity generated for the European Union by 2020. Some countries have much higher long-term policy targets of up to 100% renewables. Outside Europe, a diverse group of emerging economies target renewable energy shares in the 2020–2030 timeframe that range from 10% to 50%. Among mainstream technologies, wind power is set to remain as the most widely spread source of clean energy. Reports indicate that wind power could reach 2,000 GW by 2030, and supply up to 17-19% of global electricity, creating over 2 million new jobs and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 3 billion tonnes per year. By 2050, wind power could provide 25-30% of global electricity supply.
Modern wind turbines require a variety of sophisticated power electronic systems to function. Microprocessed controller cards, power inverters and communication PCBs are some of the technologies typically housed in a turbine or stored right next to it. These delicate systems need to operate under very challenging conditions with vibration, humidity and extreme temperatures being some of the common elements that put the electronics to test and may stress a circuitry beyond its capacity. Technicians attending to any given generator that stopped working or communicating with the grid, usually have to climb up taking multiple spare electronic cards to resolve the issue just to cause another complication: what should be done to the failed and normally expensive card? Getting it off site in itself might be tough enough requiring special permits and paperwork to be issued by the administrators. And, what if the part needs to be shipped abroad for repair? Government rules for temporary export vary so widely usually adding further unpredictable costs on top of the frustration of having to deal with slow-moving, strike prone custom agents.
Considering that wind farms are populated by hundreds if not thousands of machines, the humungous variety of designs, brands and capacity mean it is virtually impossible to have spare parts readily available to cover the multiple breakdowns that will most certainly strike following, say, a tropical storm. And if the industry exists to reduce the impact on the environment, throwing PCBs in the so-called “bone pile” goes totally against the ethos of most renewable energy players.
Keep it green, keep it profitable.
Companies like GE Renewable are investing in internal repair facitilies to provide agile, low-cost repairs on failed wind turbine systems yielding better ROI to wind farm operators on maintenance contracts while reducing downtime. Qualified technicians can troubleshoot and repair PCBs regardless of their age, and if they were made or not by GE. The equipment that makes it possible is made by ABI Electronics in the UK. ABI’s BoardMaster delivers the ultimate diagnostic and fault coverage capabilities in a flexible benchtop configuration. There are over 25 different test acommodate multiple requirements. Powered by ABI’s Ultimate Software, the BoardMaster user can quickly and safely confirm faults on PCBs removed from the turbine and isolate the usually inexpensive component. Cards that are usually valued at several thousand of euros can therefore be put back into service quickly. Robust operational data acquired and logged by the BoardMaster, can indicate which component is likely to fail when, on which turbine, and how trouble can be averted before it happens.
Easy to follow test routines that provide interactive content and pre-set instrumentation can be created by higher level field engineers and shared with field operatives anywhere in the world. These files can be loaded up on any BoardMaster or Windows PC running ABI’s Ultimate software by users that had been granted permission to do so. Real-time fault logging and reporting deliver reliable and definitive data that can drive performance indicators and life-cycle assessments.