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Belgium inaugurates wind farm with largest wind turbines

The world’s first wind park with 7 MW wind turbines has opened in Belgium, using largest units ever placed into operation to generate electricity.

The Enercon E-126 wind turbines required a 198 m crane to install the units at the Estinnes facility, near the town of Mons in Wallonia. At 1600 tonne, the world’s largest crawler crane was developed and constructed specially for lifting the 127 m diameter rotor in one step.

The models are among the most efficient in the world. Compared with a state-of-the-art 2 MW wind turbine, the E-126 increases the use in MW/km² by the factor of 2.3.

“The E-126 wind turbine comprises the most advanced power electronics in use in the wind sector and is able to provide grid stabilising ancillary services which before were reserved for conventional power plants,” said European energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs at the opening. “Estinnes is a milestone on our ambitious road to sustainable energy.”

The €6.2 million wind farm was co-financed by the European Commission with funding from the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). The pilot demonstration calls for 11 of the wind turbines to be installed by July 2012, to demonstrate “the development of a cost-effective large-scale high-capacity wind park using new state-of-the-art multi-megawatt turbines coupled with innovative technology used to stabilise the grid.”

The wind farm is the first large-scale on-shore facility in Belgium and the site will assess technical issues (network stability and security), financial aspects (cost effectiveness), as well as environmental issues (landscape pollution). Improved forecasting will improve the cost-effectiveness of the high-capacity wind park and the lessons learned at Estinnes will be adapted to a different national context with a weak grid system on the island of Cyprus, the commission explains.

The Estinnes wind farm is “one the most suited and best developed options to further increase the onshore wind power exploitation potential in Europe at a high supply security and at affordable costs,” said Piebalgs. Nicolas Fichaux of the European Wind Energy Association said the turbines show that Europe still has the “technological lead” in the wind industry.

“The Estinnes project shows how huge the potential for onshore wind power in Europe is,” adds Bernhard Fink of Enercon. “If we want to reach the target of the EU Renewable Energy Directive for 2020, onshore wind power will have to play a major role. Otherwise a fully renewable electricity supply will not be feasible - neither from the financial point of view nor concerning the potential.”

The 11 turbines are expected to generate 187 GWh a year. Currently, the E-126 models at Estinnes are running at a maximum of 6 MW capacity.

In 2008, the European Union saw another record year with installations of 8.5 GW of wind turbines, and the European Wind Energy Association says cumulative wind capacity increased 15% to reach a level of 65 GW, up from 57 GW at the end of 2007. The new wind capacity represents manufacturing revenue of €11 bn.

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AntonC said

24 October 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 30 July 2010

SA’s Got Talent!

The international spotlight has shone brightly upon South Africa this year and our sporting heroes and world-class event hosting abilities are not the only ones to have drawn attention. Local design engineers are producing innovative product designs that rival the best in the world and are considered “leading edge”.

Wind and Sea Power
“It remains a challenge to find suitable wind turbines for local conditions, as the average wind speed in South Africa is relatively low when compared with other countries,” says Anton Cordier of South African company, Design Thinking Solutions (DTS). The world is experiencing both energy and climate crises. South Africa has few areas that are considered prime wind energy farm locations. Energy derived from wind farms are also prone to non-continuous delivery due to the lack of wind at certain times, and are thus not considered base load power supply units.

“However we’ve invented technologies that allow us to design and build large sea current and wind driven turbines, which when used in combination will provide a large base load and peak power availability. This is a major step forward in the search for sustainable renewable energy sources,” he adds.

The company further proposes that by utilising pumped storage schemes in combination to their solutions it would be possible to store the extra energy available in the integrated system to adequately power the peak demands in the grid at all times.

Many experts believe that government funding should mainly be focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, as they have the highest long-term potential to deliver a low-carbon economy at the lowest overall cost to the consumer. Spending Rb’s on Eskom’s planned coal-fired power station is in direct conflict with global warming objectives, and making funds available to different energy solutions thus makes sense. South Africa currently has the 14th largest CO2 emissions footprint globally.

[DTS Table 1.jpg – Caption: South Africa currently has the 14th largest CO2 emissions footprint globally. (Source: Wikipedia)]

On Land
Until now, the difficulties of producing large wind turbines capable of handling the large structural and vibration forces during high wind operation have been prohibitive. In a bid to meet South Africa’s escalating energy needs in a sustainable and cost effective manner, the DTS team have designed new types of wind and sea turbines that are capable of increased power outputs. Used in combination these will address the continuous availability of energy delivery which can currently only be delivered by Carbon and/or Nuclear-based driven turbine technologies. Even Solar Power installations cannot provide continuous energy over the 24-hour cycle and must therefore use expensive storage capacity during the night.

“Our design allows us to manage the load bearing parts effectively,” says Cordier. “This enables us to design and build very large wind turbines that are less complicated to run, and require a smaller capital investment to manufacture.” Scores of existing three blade wind turbines are required on large wind farms to produce significant amounts of electricity currently.

“It appears that current commercially available Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) designs reach cost, design and construction limitations from about 3MW upwards,” he continues. “Without these restrictions, we believe there would be much larger HAWTs on the market. As of 2010, the maximum power capacity of a HAWT design is 7MW based on very high wind speeds. Large HAWT designs are severely limited by a number of factors that we have eliminated in our design.”

Cordier conceived the HAWT Kite concept and, jointly with Dr Becker van Niekerk, developed the DTS wind and sea current turbines. “Our constrained flying wing HAWT Kite can sweep through a larger sky area and generate more power per unit of time than static ground-based three blade wind turbines. The objective from the outset was to apply and test our concept and technology approach on large-scale power units, thus eliminating the previous constraints imposed by current design practices. We had to think outside the box!” According to Cordier, work commenced with 20MW at 40 kilometres per hour wind for the HAWT Kite and 400MW for the Sea Current Turbines (SCT) Kite at a sea current design flow speed of approximately 7 kilometres per hour.

[DTS Pic 1.jpg - Caption: All the thrust loads generated by the wings and blades during operation are transmitted to the ground through a tether connected to a mobile mounted anchor point on the ground]

The difference between the DTS HAWT Kite and those currently in operation is the use of multiple propeller-driven generators mounted on the leading and trailing edges of one or more free pitching wings, which are supported on aerofoil blades. The blades in turn are connected to a centrally mounted idler shaft capable of pivoting around a support tower. All the thrust loads generated by the wings and blades during operation are transmitted to the ground through a tether connected to a mobile mounted anchor point on the ground. This, in turn, travels in a circle around the wind turbine. Cordier has coined the design as being a “HAWT Kite”.

[DTS Pic 2 – Caption: All the thrust loads generated by the wings and blades during operation are transmitted to the ground through a tether connected to a mobile mounted anchor point on the ground]

The design obviates the need to control rotational speed of the main rotor assembly to ensure constant alternating current frequency (RSA 50 Hz). It is also not necessary to use variable pitch controlled propeller blades to maintain electricity supply frequency. The control tail fitted to the wings ensures a lift: drag ratio designed for optimum electricity generation. Electricity is then transmitted via cables to a supply substation without having to use slip rings.

[DTS Pic 3 – Caption: The control tail fitted to the wings ensures a lift: drag ratio designed for optimum electricity generation]

At Sea
The SCT Kite design is fundamentally the same as that of the HAWT Kite, however it will be more efficient in sea water since it will be neutrally buoyant, solving some of the difficulties that arise in commercial HAWTs.

[DTS Pic 4 – Caption: The SCT Kite design is fundamentally the same as that of the HAWT Kite, however it will be more efficient in sea water since it will be neutrally buoyant]

DTS is presently developing additional types of SCT Kites, all of which fly similarly to a wind kite, but are mounted in the ocean current running steady at +/-2 metres/second with a tether anchoring the system to the sea bed.

[DTS Pic 5 – Caption: DTS is presently developing additional types of SCT Kites, all of which fly similarly to a wind kite]

Cordier and his team are particularly excited about two of these designs. “One option flies from side to side in the current, while the other remains stationary as prop-on wing turbine generators rotate around an idler spindle.” In all instances, large power outputs are possible, and being mounted in the sea current off-shore and submerged, power is available on a continuous basis, and not prone to the non-availability of wind supply problems associated with HAWT farms. “It is also not foreseen that the designs will harbour any major environmental concerns to sea life at this stage, and they are deemed as appropriate as ship propellers,” he adds.

[DTS Pic 6 – Caption: It is not foreseen that the designs will harbour major environmental concerns to sea life]

“We have completed many iterations of design modeling of both the wind and sea turbine kite concepts to see whether they are technically feasible and operationally viable. We were delighted to find that even larger units with different configurations are feasible, and can provide truly competitive energy from sustainable renewable sources.

“The materials and generators required for both wind and sea turbines are much the same as those currently used internationally and we are confident that the majority of our equipment can be manufactured in South Africa.

“Inevitably critics will say that large HAWT and SCT Kites are a crazy idea; that they're dangerous, problematic and pursuing them is foolhardy,” admits Cordier. “To us, these sound similar to arguments that were historically used against human flight. With enough cooperation, research and development, we believe that the day will come when we will have large units in operation.”

Progress on design is advancing steadily and Cordier believes that the detail design on both turbines will be completed by the end of 2011. Plans are then to build a 1.5MW prototype HAWT Kite, and a 5MW SCT Kite.

For more information, contact:
Anton Cordier
Design Thinking Solutions
Tel. 083 384 1116
cordiera@mweb.co.za

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