(19)
(11)EP 2 902 623 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
05.08.2015 Bulletin 2015/32

(21)Application number: 14382040.5

(22)Date of filing:  04.02.2014
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
F03D 7/02(2006.01)
F03D 11/00(2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME

(71)Applicant: Alstom Renovables España, S.L.
08005 Barcelona (ES)

(72)Inventor:
  • Cuadro Urunuela, Victor
    08027 Barcelona (ES)

(74)Representative: ZBM Patents - Zea, Barlocci & Markvardsen 
Plaza Catalunya, 1
08002 Barcelona
08002 Barcelona (ES)

  


(54)Methods of operating a wind turbine and wind turbines


(57) A method of operating a wind turbine, wherein said wind turbine includes a tower and a nacelle positioned on top of the tower, a yaw system for rotating the nacelle with respect to the tower and one or more cables extending from the nacelle to the tower, the method comprising the steps of: establishing a neutral point of the nacelle wherein the cables are substantially not twisted; defining a reference point; rotating the nacelle to substantially align with the wind direction; and when the cables reach an untwist condition in either a first or a second rotational direction, stopping the wind turbine; and rotating the nacelle towards the reference point, wherein the reference point is different from the neutral point.




Description


[0001] The present disclosure relates to the field of wind turbines having their axis of rotation in a wind direction.

[0002] Specifically it refers to methods of operating a wind turbine for untwisting of cables and wind turbines adapted to carry out such methods.

BACKGROUND ART



[0003] Modern wind turbines are commonly used to supply electricity into the electrical grid. Wind turbines of this kind generally comprise a tower and a rotor arranged on the tower. The rotor, which typically comprises a hub and a plurality of blades, is set into rotation under the influence of the wind on the blades. Said rotation generates a torque that is normally transmitted through a rotor shaft to a generator, either directly or through the use of a gearbox. This way, the generator produces electricity which can be supplied to the electrical grid.

[0004] A generator may thus generally be provided in a nacelle on top of the tower. Furthermore, the electrical system of a wind turbine usually also comprises a power converter, which is connected to the generator, and a transformer. Although different configurations exist, the generator is usually arranged in the nacelle on top of the tower whereas the transformer is most typically accommodated at or near the base of the tower (alternatively, arrangements with at least one of these components at an intermediate height within the tower have been also employed). In any case, regardless of said particular arrangement, power transmission from the upper part of the tower (i.e. the nacelle) to the base of the tower is required. For that purpose, power cables may extend along the tower. The tower may further serve to support the nacelle and may provide access to the nacelle for maintenance.

[0005] In many wind turbines, a yaw system may be provided for rotating the nacelle in or out of the wind direction. In a yaw drive system, generally, a plurality of (electric or hydraulic) motors with suitable reduction gearing may be used for driving gears that mesh with an annular gear attached to the nacelle or to the wind turbine tower. The nacelle can thus be rotated around the tower's longitudinal axis in or out of the wind direction.

[0006] As the nacelle rotates with respect to the tower, the cables (power cables and/or other cables), which may be fixed at both ends (from a component in the nacelle to some other component at some point in the tower), become twisted. Depending on the type of cables and on their fixation, the cables can endure more or less twist. Generally, a mechanical twist limit may exist, beyond which the cables may be damaged or broken. Before such damage occurs, the cables need to be untwisted. An untwist operation of a wind turbine may comprise stopping the wind turbine, and rotating the nacelle to a neutral position (or "zero twist" position) in which the cables are not substantially twisted.

[0007] A mechanical twist limit beyond which cables get damaged depends among others on the length of the cables. In some wind turbines, a maximum twist limit of 1200 ° (in either direction) is employed.

[0008] Frequent cable untwist operations may be required during operation. These untwist operations, which comprise stopping the wind turbine, can result in power losses and they can reduce the productivity of a wind turbine. A typical untwist operation may take up to 15 minutes per 360 degrees full rotation and about one hour to untwist 1200 degrees. It is thus a general objective to reduce the number of untwist operations.

[0009] One solution would be to make the (power) cables longer, i.e. with a length significantly larger than the height of the tower, so as to increase the twist the cables can endure before damage occurs. However, particularly for power cables (thick copper cables); this solution could be rather expensive. Furthermore, said long cables are likely to result in increased electrical losses and in handling difficulties.

[0010] The document WO 2010/081758 discloses a slip ring arrangement, the use of slip ring arrangements for cables extending from the nacelle to the tower becoming twisted is a well-known solution. A slip ring is an electromagnetic device allowing the transmission of power from a stationary to a rotating structure. One side is kept stationary - in this case connected to the wires which go to battery storage, to an inverter, and/or to a bridge rectifier, while the other side can rotate freely into which the wires from the wind turbine generator are connected. As the wind turbine generator rotates on top of its pole, none of the rotation is transmitted through the cables below the slip ring.

[0011] One problem with this type of arrangement may be the use of complicated systems in order to reduce the cable twisting. This solution may thus be rather expensive and difficult to implement, especially if used for power transmission purposes and not only for low power signals such as those used for wind turbine control and/or auxiliary systems supply.

[0012] The present disclosure seeks to provide improved methods of operating a wind turbine and wind turbines that at least partially reduce one or more of the aforementioned problems.

SUMMARY



[0013] In a first aspect, a method of operating a wind turbine is provided. The wind turbine includes a tower and a nacelle positioned on top of the tower, a yaw system for rotating the nacelle with respect to the tower and one or more cables extending from the nacelle down to the tower. The method includes establishing a neutral point in which the cables are not twisted, and defining a reference point. The method further includes rotating the nacelle to align with the wind direction and when the cables reach an untwist condition in either a first or a second rotational direction, stopping the wind turbine and rotating the nacelle towards the reference point. The reference point herein is different from the neutral point.

[0014] By rotating the nacelle back to the reference point which is different from the neutral point, the cables are effectively twisted to some extent when operation is resumed. This may be particularly useful for sites in which the wind has the tendency to generally rotate in the same direction.

[0015] In some embodiments, a long untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a maximum rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction. When such a long untwist condition is reached, regardless of the instantaneous situation, operation may be interrupted and an untwisting operation may be performed. The maximum rotation may be fixed for a wind turbine respecting a certain safety margin with respect to the maximum possible twist that the cables can endure.

[0016] In some embodiments, instead of or in addition to a long untwist condition, a short untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and a wind velocity being below a predefined threshold. Alternatively, such a short untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and an electrical power being generated being below a predefined threshold. Untwisting is in examples only performed when the accompanying loss of productivity is acceptable. Otherwise, it is postponed.

[0017] In some embodiments, the method may further comprise defining a preferred rotational direction as the rotational direction in which the wind turns more often, the preferred rotational direction being either the first or the second rotational direction and wherein in the reference point the cables are twisted in the other of the first and second rotational directions. Such a preferred rotational direction may be determined during operation of the wind turbine, e.g. by measuring wind direction and analyzing the evolution of the wind direction during a period of time. Instead of measuring the wind direction directly, the rotation of the nacelle during a period of time may be analyzed. As the nacelle during operation normally is substantially aligned with the wind direction, the evolution of wind direction may be derived directly from the movements of the nacelle.

[0018] Alternatively, a preferred rotational direction may be determined prior to installation of a wind turbine. In this case, either wind simulations at the installation site or experimentally acquired data (e.g. by means of a meteorological mast) may be used as a basis to determine an a priori preferred rotational direction.

[0019] Based on the preferred rotational direction, the reference point (to which a nacelle is turned in an untwist operation) may be redefined, generally in the opposite rotational direction. In an example, if it is found that a wind turbine has a tendency to rotate in a clockwise direction, a reference point may be defined in which the cables are twisted e.g. 180° or 360° in a counterclockwise direction. The wind turbine may thus be rotated 180° or 360° more in the clockwise direction before an untwist condition is reached again than if the nacelle were rotated back to the neutral position. Untwisting operations may thus be less frequent.

[0020] In some embodiments, an analysis for determining a preferred rotational direction may comprise counting a number of times a predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the first rotational direction and counting a number of times the predetermined amount of rotation is reached in the second rotational direction. The predetermined degree of rotation may be a predetermine value e.g. 540° or 720°. The degree of rotation could also be defined as reaching an untwist condition.

[0021] If for example, it is noted that 720° rotation in a clockwise direction has been reached 6 times in an observation period, whereas 720° in the counterclockwise direction has never been reached in the same observation period, the reference point may be moved more in the counterclockwise direction. Let's suppose that a reference point is now defined as 300° in the counterclockwise direction with respect to the neutral position. It may turn out that over the next period, 720° of clockwise rotation (with respect to the neutral point) is reached 4 times, whereas 720° of counterclockwise direction is reached only 2 times. This may indicate that the reference point may be moved further in the counterclockwise direction. Such a process may in some embodiments be continued until the number of times the predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the first rotational direction and the number of times the predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the second rotational direction is substantially equal during an observation period.

[0022] In some embodiments, the method may further comprise redefining the short untwist condition depending on short-term measured conditions, wherein redefining the short untwist condition comprises the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first or the second rotational direction during a predetermined period of time and redefining the short untwist condition. For example, if a certain degree of rotation is maintained during 2 hours (i.e. the wind direction is substantially constant), a short untwist condition as previously explained may be moved further away from the current position. In view of the fact that the wind direction has been substantially the same for a while, a wind turbine control system may predict that the wind direction will not abruptly change. Thus, even if a previously defined short untwist condition is reached, no untwist action leading to an unnecessary interruption of the wind turbine is to be undertaken. As already mentioned, this result is achieved by properly redefining (i.e. re-adjusting) the short untwist condition. The reasoning is that in these sorts of situations, it is unlikely that a long untwist position will be reached.

[0023] In another aspect, the present disclosure provides a wind turbine comprising a tower, a nacelle mounted on top of the tower, a yaw system for rotating the nacelle with respect to the tower, one or more cables extending from the nacelle to the tower and a control system adapted to carry out any of the methods described herein.

[0024] Additional objects, advantages and features of embodiments of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0025] Particular embodiments of the present invention will be described in the following by way of non-limiting examples, with reference to the appended drawings, in which:

Figure 1 schematically illustrates a wind rose for a particular location;

Figure 2 schematically illustrates another example of a wind rose for a different location;

Figure 3 schematically illustrates an example of a method of operating a wind turbine;

Figure 4 schematically illustrates an example of how untwist condition points may be defined in some implementations; and

Figure 5 schematically illustrates an example of an evolution of a wind direction over time.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION



[0026] Fig.1 schematically illustrates an example of a wind rose for a particular location in which a wind turbine may be situated. A wind rose is a graphic tool that gives a view of how wind speed and direction are typically distributed at a particular location.

[0027] Fig. 2 schematically illustrates another example of a wind rose. From figure 2, the direction and distribution of wind speed and the electrical power generated at a particular location may be derived. The grey area represents the percentage of electrical power being generated by the wind turbine in the wind directions or the amount of energy in the wind for the different wind directions. The black line indicates a percentage of time in which a wind direction may be found.

[0028] Wind roses are tools that are normally used by wind turbine manufacturers and wind park developers for selecting suitable sites, and e.g. predicting energy output. However, these wind roses do not contain the information regarding how the wind direction evolves over time. It cannot be derived from these kinds of wind roses, whether at a given site the wind direction has a tendency to rotate in a preferred direction or not.

[0029] FIG. 3 is an illustration of a block diagram describing an example of a method for operating a wind turbine. At block 301, a neutral point may be established as the point at which the cables are substantially untwisted. At block 302, a reference point may be defined. The reference point defines the position where the nacelle is to be moved in case the system carries out an untwisting operation.

[0030] During operation, a nacelle may generally be rotated in a clockwise direction or in a counterclockwise direction in order to substantially align the nacelle with the wind. Alignment of the nacelle with the wind direction may be carried out e.g. every 5 minutes during operation. Any known yaw systems and any known type of yaw control may be used.

[0031] At block 304, one or more untwist conditions (i.e. a condition of twist that requires untwisting) may be defined. When the wind turbine (i.e. the nacelle or the cables) reaches such an untwist condition, an untwist operation may be started.

[0032] In some examples, several untwist conditions may be defined. For example, a short untwist condition and a long untwist condition may be reached. A long untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a maximum rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction. When such a long untwist position is reached, regardless of the instantaneous situation, operation may be interrupted and an untwisting operation may be performed to avoid potential damage of the cables.

[0033] Alternatively or additionally, a short untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and a wind velocity being below a predefined threshold or an electrical power being generated below a predefined threshold). Alternatively, such a short untwist condition may be defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and an electrical power being generated being below a predefined threshold.

[0034] When a certain degree of rotation is reached, but the wind turbine is producing a lot of electricity, i.e. in the case of relatively strong winds, it is not worth interrupting the operation of the turbine. The twist of the cables is not an imminent problem, and it may thus be beneficial to wait until the wind drops (or e.g. until maintenance takes place). The operation of the wind turbine may thus be interrupted and untwisting may be performed without losing too much productivity.

[0035] Further, at block 305 the turbine may be stopped. Once the turbine has been stopped, the nacelle may be rotated towards the reference point previously defined at block 302.

[0036] Figure 4 schematically illustrates an example of how untwist condition points may be defined in some implementations. A short untwist position may be defined in a clockwise direction 402, and another short untwist position in a counter-clockwise 405. Furthermore, a long untwist condition/position may be defined in a clockwise direction 403 and another long untwist condition/position may be defined in counter-clockwise direction 404.

[0037] At the indicated short untwist positions, corresponding short untwist conditions may be defined, e.g. as a rotational position at or beyond the short untwist position and a wind velocity below a predetermined threshold or an instantaneous power generation below a predetermined threshold.

[0038] In an example, a short untwist position may be defined for a rotation of 720 degrees in clockwise direction (with respect to a neutral position) and for a rotation of 720 degrees in counterclockwise direction (with respect to a neutral position). Corresponding short untwist conditions may thus be defined as: at least 720 degrees rotation with respect to the neutral position and a wind velocity below a predetermined threshold or an instantaneous power generation below a predetermined threshold.

[0039] Long untwist conditions in this example may be defined as a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation of 1440 degrees with respect to the neutral position. Whenever one of these long untwist positions is reached, the operation of the wind turbine is to be stopped and the nacelle is to be rotated back to a reference position. As discussed before, this reference position may not coincide with the neutral position.

[0040] In certain implementations, the reference position may be fixed based on an analysis, e.g. a statistical analysis of wind data captured at a wind site before installation of a wind turbine. The necessary data may be available in the measurements regularly performed before installation of a wind turbine or wind park, but the information may be difficult to extract from the available data. For example, wind roses such as the ones depicted in figures 1 and 2 do not provide the necessary information, as they do not show a trend or evolution of the wind direction.

[0041] A trend of the rotation of a wind direction over time may be represented e.g. by figure 5. Figure 5 illustrates an example of an evolution of a wind direction over time. A 0° position would coincide with a 360° position and a 720° position (and so on), but the evolution indicates in this case that the position is reached every time after a rotation in the same direction. In the illustrated example, clearly a preferred rotational direction may be derived. If there were no preferred rotational direction, one would expect a sort of oscillation around 0° in a representation such as the one of figure 5.

[0042] If the reference position is fixed before or upon installation based on figure 5, a reference position could be defined as e.g. 360° or more in the opposite direction of rotation, that is, in the counter-clockwise direction in the case depicted in figure 5.

[0043] In certain other implementations, the reference position may be redefined (continuously) during operation of the wind turbine. During operation, data on the wind direction may be collected. These data may come from a direct measurement of the wind direction or may be derived from the position of the nacelle. A position of the nacelle at any given moment may be determined using a mechanical system involving e.g. cams and levers or may be determined using an electronic system.

[0044] One objective may be to determine a trend of the wind direction and based on the trend be able to predict future likely wind directions. In an example, such as the one in figure 5, the important thing is not to predict an exact wind direction over time, but rather a likely rotation of the wind direction. In another example, a control system for a wind turbine (e.g. SCADA) may determine that a wind direction has been substantially the same for a period of time, e.g. an hour or two hours. Based on this information, the control system may predict that it is unlikely that in the near future a strong change in wind direction will occur.

[0045] One example of implementing such a redefinition of a reference position during the operation of the wind turbine may be to include a counting system. A plurality of fixed measuring points could be determined e.g. at 150°, 300 °, 450 °, 600 ° and 750 ° in a clockwise and a counterclockwise direction. The control system may be configured to count every time that one of these measuring points is reached during operation. If it is found out that e.g. 600° is reached more often in a clockwise direction than in a counterclockwise direction, the reference point may be redefined, moving it in the counterclockwise direction. The reference point may be moved by a predetermined fixed increment.

[0046] If during operation it is then still found that the measurement points in the clockwise direction are more often reached than the measuring points in the counterclockwise direction, then the reference point may again be moved by the same increment. Such a process may continue until it is found that the measurement points are equally often reached in one direction as in the other direction.

[0047] In some other examples, the most recent untwist condition may be used to redefine a reference point. These examples may be particularly easily implemented in existing wind turbines and they may improve productivity of wind turbines even if no reliable historical wind data is available.

[0048] In some implementations, the redefinition of the reference point may be performed based on the fact that during operation the short untwist condition may be reached in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction. The reference point may be moved to the short untwist condition in the opposite direction of the last rotation (during operation).

[0049] One example of implementing such a redefinition may be: Short untwist positions may be defined at 720° rotation in both directions. Long untwist conditions may be defined at 1200° rotation in both directions. When a short untwist condition e.g. at 720° is reached in clockwise direction, the reference point may be redefined at e.g. 360° in counterclockwise direction (with respect to the neutral point). Another increment than 360° could also be used.

[0050] In some other implementations, the redefinition of the reference point may be performed based on the fact that during operation the long untwist condition is reached in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The reference point may then be moved in an opposite direction of the last rotation (during operation). The increment could be the same as before or different.

[0051] Such a process could also be implemented on a continuous basis. That is, if a reference point is first set at 0°, then redefined to 360° CCW (counter clockwise), and a short untwist condition is again reached in the clockwise direction, then a reference point could be moved to 720° CCW. Smaller increments could also be chosen. If in the new situation, an untwist condition is reached in the CCW direction, then the reference point may be moved in the CW direction.

[0052] Although only a number of particular embodiments and examples of the invention have been disclosed herein, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that other alternative embodiments and/or uses of the invention and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof are possible. Furthermore, the present invention covers all possible combinations of the particular embodiments described. Thus, the scope of the present invention should not be limited by particular embodiments, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.


Claims

1. A method of operating a wind turbine, wherein said wind turbine includes a tower and a nacelle positioned on top of the tower, a yaw system for rotating the nacelle with respect to the tower and one or more cables extending from the nacelle to the tower, the method comprising the steps of:

establishing a neutral point of the nacelle wherein the cables are substantially not twisted;

defining a reference point;

rotating the nacelle to substantially align with the wind direction;

and when the cables reach an untwist condition in either a first or

a second rotational direction,

stopping the wind turbine; and

rotating the nacelle towards the reference point, wherein

the reference point is different from the neutral point.


 
2. Method according to claim 1, wherein a long untwist condition is defined as the nacelle reaching a maximum rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction.
 
3. Method according to claim 1 or 2, wherein a short untwist condition is defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and a wind velocity being below a predefined threshold.
 
4. Method according to any of claims 1 - 3, wherein a short untwist condition is defined as the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first rotational or the second rotational direction and an electrical power being generated being below a predefined threshold.
 
5. Method according to claim 3 or 4 the method further comprising redefining the short untwist condition, wherein redefining the short untwist condition comprises the nacelle reaching a degree of rotation in either the first or the second rotational direction during a predetermined period of time and redefining the short untwist condition.
 
6. Method according to any of claims 1 - 5, further comprising defining a preferred rotational direction as the rotational direction in which the wind turns more often, the preferred rotational direction being either the first or the second rotational direction and wherein in the reference point the cables are twisted in the other of the first and second rotational directions.
 
7. Method according to claim 6, wherein defining a preferred rotational direction comprises analyzing the rotation of the nacelle during a predetermined period of time.
 
8. Method according to claim 6, wherein defining a preferred rotational direction comprises measuring a wind direction during a predetermined time and analyzing a variation of the wind direction during said predetermined period of time.
 
9. Method according to claim 6, wherein defined a preferred rotational direction comprises determining the direction of rotation in which a most recent untwist condition was reached.
 
10. Method according to any of claims 1 - 9, further comprising performing an analysis of the rotation of the nacelle and/or a wind direction, and redefining the reference point based on said analysis.
 
11. Method according to claim 10, wherein said analysis is performed substantially continuously.
 
12. Method according to claim 10 or 11, wherein said analysis comprises counting a number of times a predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the first rotational direction and counting a number of times the predetermined amount of rotation is reached in the second rotational direction.
 
13. Method according to claim 12 further comprising redefining the reference point until the number of times the predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the first rotational direction and the number of times the predetermined degree of rotation is reached in the second rotational direction is substantially equal.
 
14. Method according to claim 13, wherein redefining the reference point comprises moving the reference point a predetermined amount either in the first rotational direction or in the second rotational direction.
 
15. Wind turbine comprising a tower, a nacelle mounted on top of the tower, a yaw system for rotating the nacelle with respect to the tower, one or more cables extending from the nacelle to the tower and a control system adapted to carry out a method according to any of claims 1 - 14.
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description