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365: Wind Turbine variable speed rotor

Problem:

One weak link with wind turbines is the risk of blackouts and other disruptions. For example in August 2019, offshore turbine controllers at the Hornsea One offshore wind farm in Essex, panicked after a lightning strike elsewhere on the grid. They inadvertently pulled the entire wind farm offline, resulting in widespread blackouts in England and Wales.

Solution:

A research team lead by Xiao-Ping Zhang, Director of Smart Grid in the Birmingham Energy Institute at the University of Birmingham set out to tackle the issue of such frequency dips (or nadirs), such as when a generator gets damaged or some other systems failure occurs.

Their solution is to deploy the rotating kinetic energy of the turbine by using the variable speed of the rotors in wind turbine systems to more closely regulate the supply of power to the grid. This means that when electricity demand is high, stored kinetic energy in the turbines can be used intelligently to keep the grid stable.

To avoid a second dip, the Birmingham team proposes a sequence that starts with partial rotor speed recovery, then automatically moves on to a second phase for full recovery. With wind power projected to supply a large slice of the UK’s power by 2030, it is important to equip wind farms with safety mechanisms against frequency nadirs. University of Birmingham Enterprise has applied for a patent to protect the system

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