Wind Power Voltage Regulation Solution

American Superconductor Corporation, 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 Company have announced the first sale of AMSC’s new D-VAR(TM) voltage regulation system for a wind farm application.

WESTBOROUGH, Massachusetts – May 23, 2002 [] 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. 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.” “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.” 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.
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