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Wind turbines

Wind turbines are innovative systems that use wind energy to create electricity. These tall structures have large rotor blades attached to a central nacelle. While they offer eco-friendly benefits by generating clean power, they also face challenges like maintenance costs and potential dangers from ice buildup on the blades and nacelle.

In colder regions like Northern Europe, where wind power plants are becoming more prevalent, ice formation on turbines occurs when cold water droplets interact with their surfaces due to clouds and fog.

 

By taking preventive measures, the risk of ice build-up can be significantly reduced. This not only improves turbine performance but also saves money on maintenance and repairs, all while minimizing the impact on the environment nearby.
 

Wind turbine protection
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Fig.1. Influence of icing on rotor blades and power loss

Icing on rotor blades and nacelle

When icing occurs, the following three effects apply to wind turbines:

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Reduction in power generation efficiency

  • Ice on the rotor blades changes aerodynamic characteristics and reduces the amount of power production compared to the absence of ice - even at the same temperature and wind speed.

  • The amount of power production decreases as the ice grows.

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Ice throw

  • As the ice on the rotor blades increases, it can be spread around the blades as the blades rotate.

  • There is a risk of damage to the wind turbine, awork, local environment and infrastructure.

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Error measurement by meteorological observation equipment

  • For example, when ice occurs on an anemometer, the value recorded will be lower than the actual wind speed.

Costs, safety and environment

Wind turbines are highly visible examples of our commitment to renewable energy. However, deploying and maintaining these structures presents significant challenges, especially in cold climates where ice and snow are hazards. Understanding these challenges requires examining cost considerations, safety issues, environmental consequences, and the potential risks associated with ice floe.

Cost Considerations
Maintaining wind turbines incurs significant expenses, which increase notably in icy conditions. Anti-icing and de-icing systems, repairs resulting from ice damage, and decreased energy production all impact operating costs and investment returns.

The Perils of Ice Floe
Ice can be propelled long distances, endangering ecosystems, infrastructure, and agriculture. A comprehensive risk assessment and protective measures are thus necessary to safeguard the environment and human safety.

Safety Concerns
Safety is crucial for renewable energy. Ice throw, where ice is ejected from rotating blades, puts people, equipment, wildlife, and surrounding areas in danger. Establishing safety protocols and setbacks is necessary to protect against ice floe and promote safe operations, further increasing costs.

Environmental Impact
Although wind energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions, the ecological impact of wind turbines is not limited to their operational phase. Resource extraction, manufacturing, and waste disposal all contribute to their environmental footprint. Balancing the benefits of renewable energy with environmental impacts is essential to assess their long-term sustainability.

 

Wind turbines in Norway

The effect of ice accumulation on the rotor blades

Source: Larry Wunsch of Brownsville, Wis

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Before treatment with Hirec

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After treatment with Hirec

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The analysis lasted a total of 4343.5 hours, and the internal icing period was 357.5 hours - about 8.2% of the time - before applying Hirec.

328.8 hours - about 7.6% of the time - after the application of Hirec.

The power loss due to ice was 61.6 MWh, which accounts for approximately 9.7% of the total power production of 516.6 MWh - before applying Hirec.

The loss due to ice was 39.0 MWh, which is approximately 4.7% of the total power production of 736.8 MWh - after application of Hirec.

In this comparison, it must be added that "shutdown" during application amounted to 5.6% - 10MWh.

Although pure comparison is difficult because the same wind turbine was not observed in the same period, the improvement in power production before and after treatment of the rotor blades is considered significant.

 

Superhydrophobic coatings have been shown to significantly reduce losses in power generation due to ice formation.

Proactive solution - Hirec

Utilizing innovative technology is crucial in addressing the challenges of ice and snow accumulation on wind turbine blades, especially in cold climates. One such technology is Hirec, a superhydrophobic coating that offers proactive protection against ice, snow, and rain build-up. By applying Hirec, the risks, costs, and environmental impact associated with ice-related challenges in wind energy production can be mitigated.

 

Hirec's water-repellent properties make it an effective solution for reducing ice formation on turbine blades and nacelles, minimizing the need for complex anti-icing systems. This not only reduces operational costs but also decreases downtime and maintenance expenses related to wear, repairs, and replacements. The improved aerodynamics resulting from Hirec's water-repellent properties ensure optimal blade efficiency and maximize energy generation.

 

In terms of safety, Hirec plays a crucial role in strengthening wind turbine safety protocols. By preventing or reducing ice accumulation on rotor blades, the risk of ice throw, which poses hazards to people and the environment, is significantly decreased. This approach aligns with industry safety standards and allows for greater flexibility in turbine placement.

 

Sustainability is central to the pursuit of renewable energy sources, and Hirec contributes to this goal by reducing reliance on traditional anti-icing systems and eliminating the risk of destructive ice discharges. By curbing the ecological footprint associated with wind turbine lifecycle, Hirec further enhances the positive environmental impact of wind energy.

 

Comparing the risks, costs, safety implications, and environmental consequences associated with traditional anti-icing measures or no measures at all against the benefits offered by Hirec reveals a paradigm shift in wind power generation. While there may be upfront costs involved in deploying this solution, the long-term savings and efficiency improvements outweigh the expenses associated with traditional techniques.

The reduction in maintenance costs, downtime, and vulnerability to ice-related damage not only make wind power more economically viable but also contribute to its sustainability. Additionally, the enhanced safety measures provided by Hirec not only enhance safety for individuals, infrastructure, and the environment but also streamline regulatory requirements, potentially facilitating more flexible turbine placement. This adaptability further emphasizes the advantages of employing Hirec as a proactive asset in cold climates.

More information about ice throw

The challenges and expenses related to ice, snow, and rain are highlighted by organizations like NVE (Norwegian Water and Energy Directorate) and GE Energy. You can find and access the full reports by following the provided links. If you're interested in learning more about how Hirec is used in wind power production and the tests and analyses conducted, you can download additional information using the links below or get in touch with us directly.

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