Windpower for Extreme Climates ...

Ralf Sigrist of Nordex at WINDPOWER 2013Of course, the main focus at the WINDPOWER show was on those huge towers with massive spinning blades that you see once you get a bit outside of the city. Because of Chicago’s central location, linking the rust belt and the farm belt, a number of wind companies have their headquarters here.

One of these is Nordex, a German company whose U.S. operations are based downtown. We had a chance to interview their President and CEO, Ralf Sigrist, about the challenges and opportunities they find in the American market. One of the things they are looking at is adapting the technology to be compatible with both high heat, and most notably, extreme cold conditions such as those one might find in the flat, windy, plains of the Dakotas, Minnesota, etc., much of the year.

Many good wind locations are in regions with extreme temperatures. To capitalise on the potential of these locations, Nordex offers the machines in the Efficiency Class with a hot-climate package or an anti-icing system. Turbines in the hot-climate design have an extended operating range and are available for outside temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius. The anti-icing system is an innovative Nordex component that heats the rotor blades, freeing them from icing and preventing new ice from forming. These two options make operation of the turbines even more profitable for our customers.

Here’s our interview with Mr. Sigrist:

Of course, anybody who’s had to fly out of O’Hare in February is familiar with the icing problem that planes have on their wings, and the large blades of the wind generators encounter similar issues, which has caused many problems for operating these systems in areas with serious winters. The company has developed a process by which these blades are heated, allowing them to stay in operation in harsh weather.

The accumulation of ice on rotor blades can severely impact energy yields and shorten the life expectancy of the wind power system. For example, the greater loads along the blade may cause rotor imbalance, shortening the life cycles of the components. The resulting change in dynamics compromises the efficiency of the turbine, leading to lost yields. Noise emissions may also increase due to greater surface coarseness. The operator may face the prospect of expensive downtime. Not least of all, there is a risk of falling ice, something which may lead to critical safety situations.

I’m pretty sure that if Evanston is able to move forward with its plans for a wind farm out in Lake Michigan, this is an issue that they’ll have to address, given “the hawk” bearing in from the Lake during the icy months!

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