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Phoenix Energy Blog
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Connecting Wind Power Systems to the Electrical Grid

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Wind power generation, just like solar is not consistent throughout the year. The weather changes and alters the availability of wind and sunlight. There are fluctuations in power generation on a regular basis. Even though there are inverters available for power management, the inherent nature of wind power generation is not stable with traditional grids.

A wind farm is not operational on a continuous basis. Hence, efficient backup power systems are required to make up the power supply during a shutdown.  The difference between the power generation forecast and actual power production needs to be managed and regulated.

The main purpose of a power grid is to make electricity available to every consumer in a continuous, stable and measurable fashion. The customers of the grid operators are extremely volatile and dynamic. People expect power to be available at any point of time whenever they turn on a switch or plug-in a socket. Such varying loads call for extreme applications of just-in-time management.

 

Conditions for grid connectivity

Given the context of proper grid management, the fluctuations and deviations in power generation from wind energy sources puts extreme pressure on grid systems. The fluctuations from a single wind farm are negligible but when combined together, the fluctuation patterns become significant. Even before connecting a wind turbine to the main grid, there are certain things that should be considered.

    • The annual average wind speeds of minimum 10 mph are mandatory for sufficient energy production to qualify for grid connectivity.
    • The grid-supplied electricity is more expensive than renewable energy systems.
    • There provisions made for successfully connecting wind energy generation systems to pre-existing grids. Added to this, grid connection equipment such as inverters should be readily available.
    • There are tax incentives and policies in place that support the use of renewable energy

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Challenges in connecting wind energy sources to traditional grids

Most of the wind turbines even today use induction generators where the rotational speed is directed by the frequency of the grid that is connected to. The blades are fixed and there is no pitching. This results in a passive controlling mechanism during extremely high wind speeds. This design is in widespread use due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of design. However, there are specific major concerns regarding such wind turbine designs and grid connectivity.

  • The loss of control and regulation of power in such wind turbines means that the frequency of the system cannot be controlled. Connectivity to grid requires a fixed frequency of generation.
  • Network voltages and fluctuations in current cannot be controlled. Traditional power plants have devices in place that check such fluctuations in the system and regulate the supply of power.
  • Traditional grids do not provide energy independence to renewable energy users. If the grid goes down in one location, then even the renewable energy users will be affected.
  • Sudden faults in the system such as circuit overlap, power surges and reverse flows among others are made worse by the presence of wind power sources.
  • Energy management equipment such as inverters for wind energy are extremely expensively and cannot be easily integrated with local power grids.

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