Optimizing a wind turbine nacelle cowl to fulfill LCOE demand

Suzlon glass fiber-infused nacelle cover drawing.

Glass fiber-infused nacelle cowl drawing. Illustrated by Susan Kraus.

  • Optimized three-part design reduces foam core utilization with strategically positioned foam core stiffeners.
  • 4-millimeter-thick outer pores and skin manufactured from glass fiber and customized epoxy/polyester resin.
  • In-situ molded stiffeners lower general cycle instances.

World wind power installations surged in 2020, with 93 gigawatts (GW) of latest capability added, bringing the world whole to 743 GW wind energy capability, in accordance with the World Wind Power Council’s (GWEC, Brussels, Belgium) 2021 report. Nonetheless, to fulfill world local weather change objectives of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the GWEC says that wind energy must be put in 3 times sooner, with as much as 280 GW new capability put in yearly by 2030.

To satisfy rising demand for renewable power, bigger and extra highly effective wind generators, with longer turbine blades, proceed to be developed and put in. As well as, to compete with low-cost fossil gasoline power, wind power additionally must be generated at a low levelized value of power (LCOE), which is an estimated value of each constructing and working a generator. Wind turbine producers are challenged to not solely improve manufacturing of extra highly effective generators, however to assist wind farms decrease LCOE by producing wind turbine elements extra cost-efficiently, optimizing gear prices.

wind turbines Suzlon

Resin-infused, glass fiber composite nacelle covers. Because the demand for bigger and extra highly effective wind generators continues to rise, wind turbine producers like Suzlon Group proceed to analyze methods to optimize their constructions and processes. A novel hat stiffener design enabled Suzlon to scale back cycle instances and materials prices on its nacelle covers. Photograph Credit score, all photos: Suzlon Group

Wind turbine blades, as more and more giant, all-composite constructions, are understandably a goal for value discount, however they aren’t the one composite elements on wind generators which will require some reengineering because the business steps as much as meet calls for for renewable electrical energy with a low LCOE. The nacelle cowl, the big protecting and structural housing for the wind turbine generator and different electronics, can also be a heavy person of composites.

Nacelle covers are sometimes manufactured through resin-infused glass fiber composites to fulfill measurement, complicated geometric and weight necessities. Regulated by requirements and tips issued by certifying our bodies like DNV GL (Høvik, Norway), the Worldwide Electrotechnical Fee (IEC, Geneva, Switzerland) and TÜV (Cologne, Germany), nacelle covers are vital structural elements that defend the turbine equipment in opposition to exterior hazards like precipitation, mud, UV radiation and lightning strikes, in addition to present an inlet and outlet for airflow inside the wind turbine generator, stand up to the wind forces skilled by the blades and warmth produced by the nacelle gearbox and different equipment and supply a protected working platform for service personnel.

Suzlon Group (Pune, India) is a wind turbine producer and renewable power options supplier that reviews greater than 18.8 GW of put in wind capability globally to this point. A few of its analysis has targeted on methods to optimize designs and manufacturing processes to assist the corporate meet world and home market calls for for extra generators at decrease LCOEs. In keeping with Fatehali Alchiya, president of design and product engineering at Suzlon Group, these wants led the corporate to discover optimization and innovation potential for each element of its generators, with the purpose of lowering whole element prices via materials consumption and/or manufacturing prices.

Throughout this analysis, one of many elements that Suzlon Group re-evaluated and redesigned was its glass fiber composite, 10-meter-long x 4-meter-wide x 4-meter-tall nacelle cowl for its 2.1-megawatt (MW) onshore wind generators. 


From sandwich panels to hat stiffeners

sandwich panel for wind turbine nacelle cover

Earlier sandwich building. Initially, the 24-millimeter-thick nacelle cowl comprised an inside and exterior pores and skin cored with foam.

sandwich panel for wind turbine nacelle cover

From conceptualization to constructing the primary prototype, the event course of took roughly 11 months starting in April 2016.

For ease of meeting, the general nacelle enclosure is manufactured in three elements — higher, decrease left and decrease proper — utilizing a resin infusion molding course of at Suzlon’s manufacturing facility in Daman, India.

The unique configuration of the higher cowl part of the enclosure was a 24-millimeter-thick, resin-infused sandwich panel comprising inside and outer glass fiber skins cored with foam. Suzlon wished to develop an alternate cowl design that decreased materials prices by way of a discount in foam utilization, whereas nonetheless sustaining the mandatory stiffness, load functionality and compression and tensile power — particularly necessary as a result of the nacelle cowl capabilities not solely to guard the turbine’s equipment in opposition to environmental forces and wind, however to guard and bear the burden of people and upkeep gear.

The optimized nacelle cowl design would should be the identical dimensions because the earlier model, with the identical mounting brackets, {hardware} and extra interfaces constructed into the geometry. Along with decreased materials utilization and related prices, the quilt additionally wanted to be manufactured in a comparatively quick, cost-effective, repeatable course of to accommodate ramped-up manufacturing volumes.

optimized nacelle cover design


Optimized hat stiffener design. The brand new design minimizes foam core use whereas maximizing stiffness, incorporating longitudinal and lateral foam core hat stiffeners in between glass fiber skins. The highest picture reveals a cut-out mannequin of the nacelle’s higher cowl. The cross part (backside picture) reveals the “hat” stiffener form.

hat stiffener

First, the crew’s structural analyst generated parametric finite ingredient evaluation (FEA) fashions utilizing ANSYS (Canonsburg, Pa., U.S.) Workbench software program and carried out experimental design research on 240 design mixtures to set up the optimum design parameters. Primarily based on the examine outcomes, the choices have been narrowed all the way down to the 4 high potential designs, which have been additional evaluated for manufacturing feasibility. The ultimate design idea was ready as a CAD mannequin utilizing Autodesk (San Rafael, Calif., U.S.) Inventor. 

Finally, by way of a mixture of digital testing and laminate coupon assessments, the researchers settled on a stiffener-based design that supplied greater than twice the stiffness of the unique sandwich building, with considerably much less use of high-cost foam core.

The optimized, hat stiffener design idea contains a 4-millimeter-thick outer glass fiber composite pores and skin, strengthened by the location of devoted, load-carrying “hat” formed stiffeners constructed from foam core at particular, high-load areas of the half. A further 4-millimeter pores and skin is positioned over the stiffeners. On the ultimate design, the quilt consists of 4 longitudinal and 13 lateral hat stiffeners.


Optimizing resin, manufacture and meeting processes

Every part is constructed from E-glass cloth, and the froth core will be created from PVC, SAN, PU or PET. To guard in opposition to lightning strikes, a conductive mesh is layered between the materials per Suzlon’s patented design. For the resin, N. Muthukrishan, senior common supervisor of structural design at Suzlon Group, says {that a} customized epoxy and polyester formulation was developed in partnership with Suzlon’s resin provider, as a result of not one of the choices in the marketplace met the corporate’s particular necessities for gel time, wetting time and time to peak temperature.

placing stiffeners for nacelle cover composite

In-situ molding. The froth core hat stiffeners are positioned strategically inside the half previous to resin infusion (high) and molded in-situ below vacuum (backside). Manufacture of the higher cowl is pictured right here.

infusion for composite nacelle cover

To accommodate increased focused manufacturing volumes, varied choices for integrating the froth core hat stiffeners with the pores and skin have been investigated. Muthukrishnan says Suzlon thought of bonding prefabricated stiffeners onto the primary pores and skin as a post-molding exercise, just like the best way boat hulls are manufactured. Co-lamination and mechanical fastening have been additionally thought of as choices. Nonetheless, the choice that confirmed the quickest cycle instances and best effectivity was in-situ molding of the stiffeners to the pores and skin.

To construct the quilt, lower materials are positioned into composite molds which might be developed in-house by Suzlon. Foam core hat stiffeners are CNC machined and positioned in pre-determined positions on the inside floor of the primary pores and skin, adopted by one other layer of glass cloth positioned over the froth. The configuration is vacuum-bagged after which resin infused. One problem to the brand new design was how to make sure even resin circulate across the stiffeners. Resin feed strains wanted to be positioned rigorously for even wetting throughout the element, and Suzlon labored with the resin provider to offer a resin with an extended gel time to permit for the resin to take longer to unfold in some areas of the half than in others (infusion is claimed to take 60 to 120 minutes per cowl part, based mostly on half complexity and measurement).

composite nacelle cover

The completed high cowl. The three items of the last nacelle enclosure, together with the pictured higher cowl proven after molding and trimming, are mechanically mounted collectively at Suzlon’s facility. The big holes proven right here within the high cowl are to allow air flow of the nacelle.

After infusion, the elements are cured through a one-hour pre-cure at room temperature to take away entrapped air, adopted by a seven-hour remedy at elevated temperature through exterior heaters in a managed setting. The three completed nacelle enclosure elements are assembled into the ultimate construction utilizing mechanical fasteners. The method of in-situ molding a number of stiffeners below vacuum received Suzlon an ICERP-JEC Innovation Award in 2019.

Total, Suzlon reviews that the in-situ molding course of resulted in a ten% discount in cycle time and 35% discount in foam core use in comparison with the manufacturing strategy of sandwich panels, value financial savings which allow Suzlon to provide these elements sooner and extra cost-effectively. To assist wind farms obtain LCOE objectives, in accordance with Alchiya, these financial savings additionally lead to an general extra reasonably priced power system for patrons as properly: “This optimization is taken into account to be one of many key contributors in direction of reasonably priced value of power in wind turbine manufacturing,” he says. 

The optimized turbine enclosure was first put in on Suzlon 2.1-MW generators in fiscal yr 2017-2018, and have been put in on greater than 250 generators to this point and counting.

Suzlon nacelle

Greater than 250 put in to this point. Suzlon continues to put in 2.1-MW generators with its optimized nacelle covers. One key design consideration was stiffness, each to guard the within turbine from climate and different hazards, and to allow a protected floor for upkeep workers.