Control tech to improve energy production at wind plants

wind energy

Early results from wind plants that have installed new wake steering and collective control technology suggest that the sites are likely benefit from a signficant energy production increase.

Collective control and advanced analytics are being achieved through the installation of WindESCo‘s Swarm technology, situated Longroad Energy‘s Milford I and II wind plants in Utah, which feature a combined capacity of 306 megawatts (MW).

Wakes at the wind farms create substantial turbulence and curtailment, reducing plant output by up to 20 per cent according to a study published in Wind Energy Science. As wind energy instalments have grown in turbine size and scale over the last several years, this problem has been exacerbated. Wakes are of particular concern to the growing number of offshore wind plants that are planned around the world, including along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US.

Swarm, which boasts to be the industry’s first commercial solution for collective control of wind turbines, works by combining advanced analytics, model-in-the-loop control, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) to accomplish a more than three per cent increase in annual energy production (AEP) via wake steering and additional collective control applications developed by WindESCo. In addition to improving AEP through wake steering, Swarm reduces curtailment, optimises low wind resource, and protects against extreme conditions that have become increasingly common due to climate change, thereby increasing asset life.

The Milford I and II Swarm installation was completed in December 2022 on 165 turbines, consisting of a mix of GE 1.5-MW and Clipper 2.5-MW machines. With both sites operational for over a decade, WindESCo and Longroad’s collaboration supported the plants’ repowering, which also included rotor, blade, and controller upgrades for many turbines.

“It is no secret that as assets age they have a natural tendency to experience certain losses in efficiency. But that does not have to be the end of the story. We are committed to looking at innovative solutions that not only mitigate production loss, but actually reverse that direction of travel. We selected Swarm at Milford I and II because we are comfortable that WindESCo will deliver that expected AEP gain,” said Jeremy Law, head of asset management at Longroad Energy.

WindESCo has released a case study of positive initial results from the project. Wake steering pairs tested for commissioning have also exceeded modelling completed prior to installation.

“While many research teams have modelled and written about the potential for improving wind plant performance through wake steering, never before has a large-scale commercial test of such technology been completed,” said Mo Dua, chief executive officer and WindESCo founder. “We are so proud of the years of work that went into bringing this solution to the market. The commissioning of Swarm at Milford demonstrates that large-scale wake steering is possible as a retrofit solution for older assets, while also proving feasibility for Swarm to support the expanding global fleet of wind turbines offshore.”

WindESCo plans to release additional results from the Milford project this summer. The company is working to install Swarm in Indonesia with additional sites offshore in the UK and continental Europe expected to be announced later this year. 

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