Strange trick could transform the entire global offshore wind industry

Clean energy
offshore wind energy renewable energy

Published in June 24, 2020 |
by Tina Casey

June 24, 2020 by Tina Casey

Not really. It’s that easy. To get more wind power on the grid without risking blackouts and other outages, all you have to do is divide a key problem into two parts and then solve them one by one. Anyway, that’s the theory. The devil is in the details, but if everything goes according to plan, this bizarre hack could propel the global wind industry at an even faster speed than it is now.

offshore wind industry renewable energy

The offshore wind industry could silence critics once and for all by changing the way wind turbines react to frequency drops (photo via U.S. Department of Energy).

A red flag for the global wind industry

The new method of solving wind energy problems was developed by a research team at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

They set out to address the problem of frequency dips, which refers to what happens when a generator breaks or a fault occurs in other systems. Things like that happen all the time. In the normal course of things, network operators find an alternative solution and nobody is wiser.

If they can’t, well, there goes your power.

You can see where this is all going, right? With more wind turbines spinning and variable wind speeds and all that, the possibility of an unmanageable frequency drop could increase.

The UK wind industry received a red flag in that regard last August, when offshore turbine controllers at the Hornsea One offshore wind farm became scared after a lightning strike elsewhere on the grid. Without realizing it, they shut down the entire wind farm, causing widespread blackouts in England and Wales.


“Thousands of homes were left without electricity, while people were stranded on trains and traffic lights stopped working. Power was restored some 40 minutes later, but problems on the rail network continued over the weekend, “recalls the Birmingham team.

Wind industry saved by a strange trick

That episode gave the windmill faction plenty of grit for the mill, but they may want to put that cork back in the champagne bottle. The Birmingham study indicates that the solution to prevent outages in wind farms is relatively simple and requires no additional equipment or investment.

That is bad news for those who hate the wind and good news for the global wind industry.

You can get all the details of IEEE Xplore under the title, “Rapid frequency support of wind turbine systems by stopping the frequency nadir near the set frequency. “The study is complicated, but the essential is quite simple.

“… currently, dominant variable speed wind turbine (WTS) systems operate primarily in Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) mode and therefore do not regulate their active power to support the power grid when the network frequency deviates from its nominal value, “The U Birmingham team explains.

Do you have all that? Okay! What they mean is that today’s wind turbine technology is not very good at turning things around in response to grid outages, especially when you throw variable wind speeds into the mix. When something goes wrong, it can trigger an unintentional disconnect and everything runs down the hall with hair on fire, just like it did in Hornsea One.

Wind industry researchers have come up with a ton of different solutions, but some of these methods involve losses in both efficiency and revenue, or require additional capital outlays.

Birmingham’s approach distinguishes another avenue, which is to deploy the rotating kinetic energy of the turbine blades. This has been tried before, but the problem is regulating the recovery speed of the turbine. If it moves too fast, it could trigger a second frequency drop that is even more severe than the interrupt that started the problem in the first place.

To avoid that second dive, Birmingham proposes a sequence that begins with a partial recovery of rotor speed, then automatically goes into a second phase for a full recovery.

“… the proposed frequency support scheme releases more kinetics [energy], and lasts longer than existing schemes when rotor speed is restored during primary frequency control, so FN [frequency nadir] Using the new scheme can be raised to be close to settling frequency without worrying about FSD [frequency second dip]”Explains the team.

There is more, but you understand the idea.

Forward and upward for offshore wind energy

All of this is especially good news for the US offshore wind industry. USA The United Kingdom and other nations have jumped ahead in the race on the high seas, while the USA. USA It still has a small 30 megawatt offshore wind farm in operation, but on the other hand, the US. USA You have a chance to learn from the Hornsea debacle before sinking hundreds if not thousands of new wind turbines in the ocean.

If you wonder why the United States is so backward, that’s a long story. The Obama administration tried to speed things up, but was met with state opposition. Ironically, US offshore wind activity. USA It’s been shot under President * Trump, who is known to be not a fan of wind power (or masks, but that’s a lot of worms).

Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia are among the east coast states with ambitious plans to boost the offshore wind industry. Even New Jersey is hatching plans for a wind farm. That’s a major change from the last governor, who exploited, as it were, the state’s opportunity to lead the nation in offshore wind development.

As if it were a sign, yesterday Wood Mackenzie released a new report titled somewhat pedestrian, “US offshore wind energy USA It turns on.

The report is anything but pedestrian. Indicates that the US offshore wind industry. USA It could rise from virtually nothing to 25 gigawatts by 2029. However, it also warns that a storm is brewing due to “allowing for delays and political risks.”

Sure enough, earlier this year our friends at E&E News reported that the Trump administration is trying to curb offshore wind energy projects.

Offshore wind industry and the green hydrogen connection

That slowdown could be a temporary problem, depending on the outcome of the November elections. More troubling in the long term is the transmission bottleneck problem, which is also raised by the Wood MacKenzie report.

“Recent large-scale transmission projects focused on renewable energy have been unable to move forward due to a combination of permit delays, NIMBYism and high grid upgrade costs,” explains the report’s author, Wood’s chief analyst. MacKenzie, Max Cohen.

That brings us to one of our favorite subjects, green hydrogen. The offshore wind industry in Denmark is already looking at green hydrogen as a way to spur further development of offshore wind power, even if the onshore transmission infrastructure cannot handle the load.

Here in the USA In the US, the state of Maine is exploring renewable hydrogen (also known as gas power) as a way to diffuse more green electrons through its remote network without having to invest in new transmission lines and improvements.

The United States already has a hydrogen pipeline network that primarily serves industrial and refinery operations, and the Department of Energy is seeking to expand it, in part by reusing natural gas pipelines.

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* Projection, a lot?

Photo: offshore wind turbine through the US Department of Energy USA

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Tags: DOE, Energy, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Renewable Energy, United Kingdom, United States, University of Birmingham, USA USA, Virginia, Wood Mackenzie

About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are frequently published on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. The opinions expressed are yours. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.