“advancements In Wind Turbine Technology: Boosting Energy Output” – Wind energy is a vitally important component in enabling our planet to create more sustainable sources of electricity generation. In general, the renewable energy industry is expanding and many countries are setting ambitious targets for growth, such as Scotland, which aspires to get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This growth is creating many renewable energy job opportunities for experienced engineers, while at the same time pushing innovation . within wind energy technologies thus processes can become more efficient and a greater amount of power can be generated from sustainable sources.
Wind turbine technology has been present in human history for centuries, with the earliest known windmills used for grain and water pumps in A.D 500-900.
“advancements In Wind Turbine Technology: Boosting Energy Output”
But it was only at the end of the 19th century that the first turbines appeared specifically to generate renewable energy in Scotland, Denmark and the United States. The purpose of these windmills was to generate electricity in places that were difficult to reach for regular electricity systems. These early turbines were not much different from what we see now within the wind industry. Simply put, they possessed two or three blades that had a similar appearance to a propeller on an airplane that would generate power when the wind caused the blades to spin around a rotor. This rotor would be connected to a generator which then created electricity.
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Things have moved on since then, and in the last 40 years, turbine technology has been used to generate electricity on much larger scales to feed existing power grids. The world’s first wind farm was built in the 1980s in New Hampshire, USA, that consisted of 20 turbines but due to developers overestimating the available wind resource, that wind farm was turned into a failure.
Later wind farms in the 1990s were much more successful in the US, Denmark and the UK and could power a small number of homes, paving the way for the impressive wind farm in use across the renewable energy industry today.
The wind turbines of today are considerably and continuously improving from those first tried in the 80’s and 90’s. We are increasingly seeing turbines become more cost effective, more reliable and capable of much more power generation – today’s turbines are considerably larger with greater power generation capacity of up to 12MW!
As the technology matures, advances are on the horizon that will extend wind project lifetimes while simultaneously lowering operating costs.
What Does The Future Of Wind Turbine Technology Look Like For Engineers?
Turbines, these days, are not very digital. But as technology, in general, evolves to become more sophisticated, there are lessons the wind industry can learn and use to adapt their operations. For example, with the recent bandwidth upgrade from 4G to 5G, offshore wind turbines can now communicate with geographically distant asset owners much faster.
As well as this, as ‘the cloud’ becomes a more secure space to store larger amounts of data, the wind industry can take advantage of this to allow turbines to store a greater amount of analytics than before. With more data comes more insight into the health of the turbine. However, with this comes an increased amount of administrators – there’s no point in having deep analysis if no one can interpret it. This will open up more job opportunities and areas for diversification for skilled technicians. Another way for data interpretation is the use of intelligent AI systems. This is something that the wind industry can use it to remove some of the manual managers from the workforce and replace it with a digitized process.
Drone use is also another technological advancement that the wind industry is exploiting. With drones, photos can be taken remotely and autonomously without the need for a pilot, cloud computing can then combine these images, before finally passing them on to an AI system that is programmed to identify any problems with the blade ie. – cracks, for example. This highly digitized process means that maintenance problems can be identified at an early stage, enabling technicians to be deployed before the problem becomes serious enough to warrant shutting down the turbine.
Digitization is not limited to the wind turbine technology itself, it is expanding across the industry with ideas such as a smart ‘smart grid’ being developed.
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Most people have heard of “the grid,” which is a network of transmission lines, transformers, and substations that deliver electricity from its source, such as a wind farm, to your home. The origins of this engineering marvel date back to the 1890s and although it has been improved over time, it now needs to evolve further to keep up with society and become digital.
Basically, the smart grid is a digital technology that enables communication between the utility provider and the customer. It consists of a series of computers, an automated process and new technologies working together to create a responsive grid. For example, if there is an emergency such as a blackout, the smart grid technologies can detect this and isolate the problem, containing it before it grows to become a large-scale blackout.
The premise of the smart grid is a huge industry-level change that will take a decade to implement, but it will bring great rewards such as the ability to predict demand and coordinate storage at multiple levels. It could be used to tell the turbines in a wind farm when to run; depending on what the current demand for energy is, meaning that energy use becomes much more efficient and cost-effective.
The latest innovations and digital transformations are fantastic news for an industry that will go from strength to strength. As processes become digital, analytics become more accessible, more comprehensive and easier to interpret, enabling the energy industry, and in particular, wind farms, to utilize a more cost-effective operation that realizes increased power production. But what does this mean for the engineers who work in wind energy?
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‘Engineers with technical skills – such as mechanical, electrical and control and instrumentation, blade and turbine technicians – will be increasingly needed to support growth. But engineers should expect required skills to now include large elements of IT/networking skills, as areas such as fault finding and systems/performance monitoring are done through electronic, rather than mechanical, means. In addition, and in conjunction with the increase in wind turbine scale, the offshore wind industry will continue to develop the innovators of tomorrow, especially in areas such as ships and logistics, submarine cables and transmission, foundations, turbines, artificial intelligence, robotics and data analytics and will naturally demand the skills to support it.’
NES Global Talent has over 20 years of experience supporting the Renewable Energy industry and we solve staffing challenges for our clients around the world. Our dedicated wind team has a deep understanding of the challenges facing the industry and can mine our extensive global network to find you the talent you need, so if you have a requirement for offshore or onshore wind staffing, contact our experts today.
We are already working on some of the world’s most exciting renewable and wind projects, so we are best placed to find the right placements for the right candidates. From solar power to wind farms, we have many renewable energy job opportunities for experienced engineers looking to enhance or start their career in the wind industry. Over the last few years, renewable energy has become more prominent and features in almost all government policies around the world, with China recently declaring an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2060.
The importance of renewable energy sources is exemplified by the fact that green investments and targets were one of the few areas not affected by the dramatic changes to every level of society during 2020. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, even stated , that the European Green Deal will be the “engine for recovery” of Europe. Indeed, wind power forms a central pillar to those renewable energy goals, with both onshore and offshore wind projects projected to increase dramatically over the coming decades, with up to 450 GW of offshore wind targeted by 2050, across Europe alone.
Technological Advances In Renewable Energy
To meet these exciting and ambitious goals, the impact of wind turbines on radar installations and the consequent objections raised to prevent degradation of radar coverage must be addressed. Wind turbine radar interference is an urgent and complex problem facing the wind industry, compounded by the drive to improve renewable energy contributions within the UK and globally. The global importance of the topic has resulted in leading associations for wind energy around the world identifying it as a key area, resulting in the creation of several dedicated task forces formed specifically to find viable mitigation strategies.
The detrimental effect of wind turbines on radar performance has been known for more than two decades, but has only recently begun to be seen as a significant issue, as the number of wind turbines increases and the space where radar stations can be located without interference shrinks. The search for a solution therefore became most important.
Recognizing that stealth solutions hold great promise for overcoming interference issues, Trelleborg’s applied technologies operation, in collaboration with the Department of Materials at Loughborough University in the UK, developed Frame (Full Radar Absorbing Materials and Equipment) to deliver reliable mitigation solutions to