Exploring the Renewable Energy Sector Part-I: Windmills

The renewable energy market is growing at lightning speed (now that’s some renewable energy right there!). The industry has already exceeded its 2020 targets. Reports show the industry is four years ahead of its time, already! The world wants to move away from fossil fuels and the only way forward is to cash in on the solar and wind power. The significant growth and demand have surprised everyone, especially for countries like Canada, South Africa, and India. The demand has encouraged sudden, and large investments and wind farms are coming up everywhere – on as well as offshore. Let’s look at some of the why’s and the how’s of this sector and focus on some specific special parts that matter a great deal.

The Various Applications of Junction Boxes In Wind Turbines

You can harness the power of wind energy for electricity with Windmills or Wind Turbines. If you were to see what makes up the windmill, you see it has blades with a rotor in the center. There are gearboxes and a variety of junction boxes and other components that help to harness and direct the wind power, convert it into electrical energy, and transmit where it is needed to.

Among the hidden components of wind turbines, or windmills, are the junction boxes. Junction boxes have a variety of applications in the wind turbine system.

Distribution: The output of a wind turbine is stepped up through a transformer and then distributed underground to Junction Boxes. The Junction Boxes are connected to a collector sub-station where the voltage may be stepped up again to achieve the voltage required by the utility that is responsible for transmitting the electrical energy where it is needed to.

Controls that regulate windmill blade speed: The blades of the windmill have to be deftly designed so they are light-weight and able to do the job of harnessing the power of the wind. This is a critical element as the speed of the turbine is determined by the blades and how they move. The pitch-controller controls the movement of the blades, and each pitch-controller has a Junction Box with an enclosed power unit.

Data Logging: Data logging is extremely important in the ongoing operation of the windmill. Junction Boxes within the wind turbines have sensors and advanced devices that capture sensitive parameters like turbine vibration, gear data, and information about the various connecting parts and applications, and log these for further inspection and analysis. The data may have to be converted from analogue to digital form and will usually have to be transmitted to a location where it can be analyzed. This helps in remotely controlling these aspects for an optimal solution. This ensures that all relevant information is readily accessible at all times for driving proactive maintenance and upkeep.

Termination applications within the nacelle: The nacelle contains all the power-generating components of the turbine ie. gearbox, drive train, generator, and brakes. The complex assortment of equipment means there are a bunch of terminations and connections that need to be effectively provided for. This may include low and high-speed brakes, shafts, and controllers. Switches for light and heating must also be provided for. All these terminations call for different types of junction boxes, each with its own characteristics of materials, nature of terminations and glands.

The Challenges Junction Boxes Must Endure

Windmills are, by definition, located at places which have high wind flow. In most cases, these locations are remote and far from urban centers. In many cases, these locations are offshore. This presents certain unique atmospheric challenges for the wind turbines, and the several Junction Boxes within them, to deal with.

Whether your wind turbines are offshore or onshore, there is extreme exposure to moisture. In offshore locations, this moisture is also highly saline. Combined with high wind, there are high possibilities of the moisture getting ingress into the electrical mechanisms. Metallic parts can face corrosion, circuits could get damaged, and even the composite materials of equipment may degrade in quality. The materials can undergo chemical or physical reactions and undergo fractures or other physical damage. The Junction Boxes have to be made of the appropriate materials and comply with the right standards to be able to weather this challenge!

The other challenge for Junction Boxes is inherent to the nature of the beast – vibration due to various moving parts and the sustained exposure to the high wind. This is a significant consideration for the Junction Boxes as vibration introduces stresses into the material that could compromise the physical structure of various elements of the solution. The material and construction of the boxes have to allow for this extreme stress.

Clearly, Junction Boxes are a critical component in the success of a wind turbine solution. They perform important functions in demanding conditions. With appropriate material and mechanical engineering, systematic processes and a quality-oriented professional approach, your windmills can get the most out of these hidden heroes!

Publish Date : 07/12/2017