The collaboration has developed ways to make wind turbines more reliable, efficient, lighter, and cheaper, said the partners.
A project at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering has made “significant” improvements to the direct-drive generator – the technology that enables wind turbines to run without a gearbox.
According to the partners, this is the most vulnerable part of a turbine and can require expensive maintenance and repairs.
“The new technologies that we have developed use a combination of data and physics to allow us to monitor the performance of whole wind farms as well as individual components on each turbine, such as the blades and the mechanics”, said Nikolaos Dervilis, a professor at the University of Sheffield.
“These advancements, along with research being carried out at Durham and Hull universities, will ensure that offshore wind turbines are operating more efficiently and for much longer periods of time.”
The Sheffield researchers have made improvements to the materials used in many of wind turbines’ components, so the generator is more reliable, efficient, and lighter, the partners said. In addition, the improvements have also reduced manufacturing costs.
“In modern direct-drive generators, there is no gearbox. This eliminates 50 per cent of the components of a wind turbine and has a direct positive impact on the reliability of the system. We have developed ways to make the generator even more efficient, including improvements to the choice and use of better materials for many of the components. This helps reduce the cost of manufacturing the generator system by 20 per cent“, said Zi-Qiang Zhu, a Professor at the University of Sheffield.
The partnership was funded by the UKRI Prosperity Partnership programme, which aims to support research into real-life problems and issues identified by industrial partners.
According to the partners, another key outcome of the collaboration has been in helping to identify where the next stages of research need to be concentrated, to allow even more improvements to be developed.
Funding for a number of follow-on projects has already been secured, which the partner institutions will collaborate on.
The partners were awarded an EPSRC-funded research grant worth GBP 6.3 million.
“This collaboration allows SGRE to steer the University to apply its excellent track record for innovation towards real life issues facing the industry. It helps to focus the research into areas that are far more relevant and which will have much more immediate, positive impacts”, said Arwyn Thomas, Industrial Principal Investigator from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.
“This, in turn, ensures that our graduate and post-graduate researchers develop the right skills to enter industry and help meet the current skills shortage.”
Ørsted is the owner of 13 operational wind farms in the UK. In August last year, the company fully commissioned its 1.3 GW Hornsea Two project, which now holds the title of the world’s largest wind farm in operation.
The project, located 89 kilometres off the Yorkshire Coast, alongside Hornsea One, comprises 165 Siemens Gamesa 8 MW wind turbines which can power over 1.4 million UK homes with clean energy.