ABB has developed a new wind power technology that makes wind farms competitive with conventional large power plants. The ‘Windformer’, it is claimed, increases power output by up to 20 percent and cuts lifetime maintenance costs in half.
The Windformer uses cable technology originally developed for ABB’s Powerformer high-voltage generator. Protected by some 230 patent applications, this technology allows ABB to eliminate a number of components found in conventional wind generation systems.
As a result, ABB has created a wind generator that requires neither a gearbox nor a transformer, making wind farms more reliable with lower electrical losses. Using the Windformer, wind farms can be economically built in a range from six megawatts (MW) to 300 MW or more—equivalent to the output from a medium-sized fossil-fuel power plant.
ABB said the the cost of producing electricity using the Windformer is below US 4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), competitive with costs from conventional gas, coal or oil-fired power plants.
ABB is currently testing a 500 kilowatt (kW) prototype. Vattenfall, the Nordic energy group, has agreed to install a 3-3.5 megawatt (MW) demonstration plant expected to go into operation in the summer of 2001.
Combined with other ABB advanced power transmission technologies, such as HVDC (High-Voltage Direct Current) Light, the Windformer allows wind farms to be located at lower cost farther away from human settlements, such as in offshore installations where wind is stronger and where the wind turbines are out of sight and hearing range.
HVDC Light also allows wind farms to be economically connected directly to large national grids for the first time, thus reducing the need to build additional fossil-fuelled power plants using coal, oil or natural gas.
Wind power is fully renewable and the fastest growing source of electricity production in the world, continuing to exceed all forecasts. Installed capacity has grown from practically nothing in 1990 to about 13.4 gigawatts (GW) – the equivalent of more than 20 large fossil-fuel power plants. New installations in 1999, at almost 4 GW, were up 51 percent compared to the previous year. The installation rate could reach 10 GW per year by 2005.