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      Case Study

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      Air Windpower Develops First Prototype Wind Generator

      Allen-Bradley components allow wind generator to work standalone and with excellent energy efficiency

      Challenge

      • The electrical and automatic components had to manage and monitor the operation of the wind generator with the maximum efficiency and with no unplanned stops

      Solutions

      Results

      • Very high availability
      • Excellent efficiency and reliability
      • No faults or unplanned stops
      • Stand-alone management of the wind generator

      Background

      Air Windpower is an established company based in Navarra, Spain, which focuses on providing the advantages of wind energy to its customers through the installation of wind generators.

      The company, made up of engineers and professionals with a long experience in the energy industry, started its activities with the construction of an innovative prototype of a state-of-the-art 100kW wind generator placed in Muruarte de Reta, a small town 15 km from the city of Pamplona.

      This machine has been created with a clear objective: maximise reliability and minimise the cost of the energy produced during its operating life.

      From the start, Air Windpower has worked together with Boreas, a company specialising in renewable energy installations, and devoted to the design of the machine, including the aerodynamic structure of the blades, the development of main components and the interrelation between its elements.

      After several months of testing and monitoring – submitting the wind generator to all sort of technical analysis in order to verify its operation and reliability – the company has started a new stage within its strategy: the commercial launch of the wind generators, which will be available with two models.

      The first one is suitable for windy environments and will be similar to the prototype; the second will have a bigger rotor diameter and is more suitable for less windy areas.

      The aim of Air Windpower is to gain a market share in the Spanish wind energy market and, at the same time, expand its business to other markets such as the US and the UK.

      Challenge

      The prototype developed by Air Windpower, a 100 kW wind generator, supplies a nearby quarry on a self-consuming approach, thanks to its latest generation technologies for wind energy generation.

      First, it has an extremely ruggedised powertrain with load transmission to the tower by means of stationary pieces, a maintenance-free gondola, three hybrid blades made of glass-fibre and carbon with no junctions in order to achieve the maximum efficiency and ruggedness and a permanent magnet multi-polar generator with no multiplying gears. Added to this is the integration of “full converter back-to-back” power electronics for maximum energy quality and the ability to operate in isolation.

      All these technical requirements brought Air Windpower to rely on the global electrical solutions company Sumelec Navarra, distributor of Rockwell Automation for 25 years.

      “We have carried out the electrical design of all cabinets, circuitry and cabling implementation, and the integration of Allen-Bradley? products,” states Julio Bustillo, Sales Manager for the Renewable Segment at the company. The company has also provided Air Windpower with the auxiliary panel for the control of the machine.

      As the Bustillo explains, the challenge for Rockwell Automation consisted of “supplying all the electrical and automatic components in order to manage and monitor the operation of the wind generator with the maximum efficiency and, overall, with no unplanned stops.” This last feature was critical for Air Windpower.

      As José Sancho, PhD Industrial Engineer and CTO Boreas NT responsible for developing the project, explains: “We wanted to install an electrical system with good reliability to help assure good operation of the machine.” The solution also had to be compliant with European and American security norms UL 508A.

      Solution

      Rockwell Automation's contribution to the prototype has not been just one single solution or product, but several components from the Allen-Bradley range – all of them necessary for the good energy-related operation of the machine.

      Some examples are the programmable automation controller, distributed inputs and outputs, power supplies, contactors and pushbuttons. In general terms, all the auxiliary, energy-related material has been supplied by Rockwell Automation.

      “We used all the necessary products supplied by Rockwell Automation for complete monitoring and control of the machine. This way we can send the commands to the power electronics converter to indicate which operating curves needs the wind generator, the rotating speed required depending on the wind, the power to be extracted and other variables we want to manage,” explains Sancho.

      Along with all these components, the prototype wind generator also uses an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix? PAC, which is tightly integrated between the programming software, the controller and the I/O modules, reduces the startup time and helping towards efficient and smooth operation.

      All of this is integrated with an Allen-Bradley PanelView? Plus HMI, which shows the status machine information in a simple graphical format.

      Results

      “From the very moment we finished the mounting of the wind generator and undertook testing, the system has proved to offer the highest availability with excellent levels of energy efficiency and reliability. In fact, we didn't have a single failure or unplanned stop,” assures Sancho.

      Currently, the wind generator is operating in automatic mode, so in case any fault is detected, an engineer would be informed about the event. However, as Sancho states, “this hasn't happen so far.”

      He continues: “We found in Rockwell Automation a company able to supply an automation and overall control system for the wind generator. They always met our stringent requirements for these kinds of machines.” Bustillo shares the same opinion: “Rockwell Automation was always there by our side, offering us all support we needed and collaborating with us on this implementation.”

      These kinds of wind generators have a great future within the current energy generation landscape, since they give end users the chance to generate part of the energy they consume, thus reducing their energy bill. Sancho concludes, “It's a trouble-free, maintenance-free machine, with high availability and reliability. In other words, it's rugged and offers a maximum productivity.”

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