Aging wind turbines are, quite literally, a big problem. But sometimes the small components within are the biggest source of waste and frustration.
Maintenance of GE wind turbines is becoming a costly endeavor for many owner-operators. There’s been a growing demand for a lead acid battery replacement for wind turbines made by GE, but nobody to fill that gap. Initially, operators turned to lithium ion battery replacements for wind turbine parts, but the failures continued.
But now there’s a solution, and it doesn’t involve batteries at all. Ultracapacitors can be retrofitted to replace batteries as backup power in electric pitch control systems. Wind turbine component makers are starting to offer ultracapacitors as an UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that utilizes cutting edge capacitor technology to reduce wind turbine downtime while boosting efficiency.
Keep reading to see how this 1:1 swap is making maintenance a thing of the past.
Can Wind Turbine Ultracapacitors Really Be a Lead Acid Battery Replacement?
Emergency backup power for pitch control is a crucial part of efficient wind production. Your turbine has to feather the blades in a neutral position so they don’t spin out of control and cause unnecessary fatigue and damage.
Why Not Lithium-Ion Wind Turbine Batteries?
Sealed lead acid batteries are among the oldest and cheapest battery technology, but Lithium-ion has become more prevalent due to its longevity.
Even though their lifespan has been improved, Lithium-ion batteries still lack the power performance associated with “high rate” batteries used for pitch actuators. Not to mention, Lithium-ion technology is notably more susceptible to fire due to thermal runaway, and you don’t want to risk burning your $2.5 million turbine to the ground.
So, what’s the next alternative?
Wind Turbine Ultracapacitor
Ultracapacitors (also called supercapacitors or electric double layer capacitors) are among the next steps to reducing cost and improving wind production efficiency. Ultracapacitors store energy electrostatically; batteries store energy electrochemically. Since ultracapacitors do not rely on electrochemical reactions, they can handle rapid, repeated charges and discharges at high power.
Ultracapacitors excel in applications with short-duration energy needs where battery maintenance and replacement is expensive, inconvenient, or both. In other words, ultracapacitors are a perfect fit for improving wind turbine efficiency.
To provide that much-needed backup power. Windurance teamed with LICAP, a manufacturer of ultracapacitors and lithium ion capacitors. Windurance developed charger units to team with LICAP’s ultracapacitors as a so-easy-it’s-brilliant way to replace existing lead-acid batteries for emergency auxiliary power in GE wind turbines.
The Best Battery for Wind Turbines? No Battery
Backup systems enable smooth ride-through and shutdown of a wind turbine pitch system which increases reliability and safety. Why chance that on a component that might only last 2-5 years?
LICAP’s turbine replacement ultracapacitors act as a retrofit solution for aging battery units. The capacitors are a drop-in replacement designed to fit in the same location as the existing batteries — no hardware or software modification necessary. The retrofitting is common across various pitch box versions, with only wire harness, bracket, and mounting accommodations needed on your end. Just drop the LICAP right in — it even mounts into the same well studs.
The drop-in retrofit is designed for GE 30 Nm and 20 Nm pitch systems.
Benefits of Wind Turbine Supercapacitors for the Pitch System
Ultracapacitors offer several advantages over lead acid or even lithium ion batteries for wind turbines:
Auxiliary power provided by ultracapacitors in a wind turbine keeps systems running during a destabilizing grid event and provides power to the pitch actuators to safely perform an Emergency Shut Down (ESD) in the event of a continued loss of power. When power is lost, some systems require seconds or longer to save information and shut down safely — an ultracapacitor is the most reliable way to see that happens every time.
The advantages of ultracapacitors over lead acid or lithium-ion batteries are threefold:
- Lower Maintenance Costs: A drop-in replacement that interfaces with existing EPU and SCADA systems. Reduces need for maintenance and eliminates battery-related pitch control actuator faults.
- Higher Reliability: Minimizes turbine downtime while lasting up to 5x longer than batteries.
- Safer: Reduces number of climbs for technicians. Can be fully discharged. No lead or acid, and no change to lock-out tag-out system.
More on Aftermarket Electronics Remanufacturing for Wind Turbines
Your wind turbine should be a source of reliable performance, even in harsh environments. Ultracapacitors make that goal easier than ever to attain.
A wind turbine battery alternative is just one way to integrate the benefits of aftermarket services into your maintenance plans. You can never go wrong with extending the life of your product — retrofit wind turbine parts to maximize your profit for years to come!
For more on reducing the need for wind turbine maintenance, learn about digital prefilters here. Or, if you want something answered quickly and directly, contact us below: