The Effect of Pitch System Reliability on Wind Power Generation’s Levelized Cost of Energy

Improving turbine reliability and uptime is critical to reducing wind generation’s Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) and remaining competitive in today’s renewable market. While in the past, much of operator’s focus has been on improving the design and operation of gearbox assemblies in order to reduce downtime, there is significant opportunity to reduce maintenance requirements and life-cycle costs by improving pitch control system design.

Key Topics:

  • Reducing LCoE by improving turbine reliability
  • Importance of a Pitch System and its impact on a reliable performance
  • Increased uptime through less part count
  • Greater productivity through less maintenance-related downtime

The white paper discusses how a new generation of pitch systems improve turbine reliability and reduce LCoE.

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Topic 1

Renewables Dominate New Capacity Addition

Over the past decade, the substantial increase in installed capacity from clean renewables has drastically transformed the global energy landscape. Non-hydro renewables such as wind, solar, and biomass have become increasingly competitive, producing as much electricity worldwide as gas and more than twice that of nuclear.

In 2015, global wind installations grew by 16%, raising the cumulative installed capacity to 433GW. It took the world roughly four decades to reach the 433GW total; however, nearly 15% of it has been installed in the past year alone (63.5GW) .

Topic 2

Turbine Reliability is a Key Factor that Contributes to Levelized Cost of Energy

LCoE is a value that measures the net cost to install and operate a turbine against expected energy output over the course of the turbine’s lifetime (incentives excluded). LCoE is a commonly used indicator of a wind energy project’s return on investment and is often the standard methodology used by governments, utilities, IPPs, and major consultants to determine the competiveness of a specific generating facility and/or asset.

Over the past decade, average LCoE for wind generation projects across the globe has dropped to new lows. This decrease is attributable to a number of turbine-related advancements that have allowed for greater energy capture gains and increased capacity factors, including improvements in automation and electronics, longer blades, and taller towers.

Topic 3

Wind Industry Pain Points – Pitch System is a Major Failure Component

The reliability of a wind turbine is a product of the reliability of its components. One of the challenges faced by the industry lies in understanding where efforts to improve component reliability will translate into the greatest return on investment. Most of the research done in the past on this subject has focused on mechanical and electrical system level analysis – providing very little depth in terms of failure analysis at the component level.

Topic 4

Benchmarking Pitch System Reliability

In 2016, Moog partnered with DNV GL in a reliability benchmarking and LCoE analysis project. Making use of internal datasets and operational data provided by Moog, DNV GL created a benchmark of pitch system reliability based on field data from a total of 69 projects, covering roughly 5.3GW of installed capacity and 4 million turbine days. The data were used to create pitch system reliability profiles for different regions, ranges of turbine rating and pitch system technologies.

Different data sources were available to DNV GL for each of the 69 projects. These included owner reports summarizing component downtime, failure tracking logs summarizing component replacements, and fault logs from project SCADA systems.

Topic 5

Pitch System Reliability Improvement Options

Moog develops and builds high performance pitch systems and pitch products for onshore and offshore wind turbines. Currently, more than 40,000 of Moog pitch systems and products are in operation in over 22,000 wind turbines worldwide.

In an effort to identify the greatest opportunity for pitch system reliability improvement, Moog evaluated three pitch system technology options:

  • Electrohydaulic (EH) - mature technology. limited opportunity for reliability improvement.
  • Electro Hydrostatic (EHA) - attractive option for high-force applications. limited opportunity for reliability improvement.
  • Electromechanical (EMA) - significant opportunity for reliability improvement through design optimization.

Topic 6

Moog Pitch System Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) Analysis

Using the findings of a benchmarking study, DNV GL carried out an analysis to calculate the sensitivity of LCoE to changes in pitch system reliability. DNV GL also calculated LCoE for a number of pitch system reliability profiles provided by Moog, including the new optimized design. The study made use of two DNV GL modeling tools (Turbine.Architect and OMCAM) to calculate CapEx, OpEx, and finally, LCoE based on pitch system profiles provided by Moog.

Turbine.Architect is a cost model tool for conceptual design and analysis. It can be used to study a wide range of input parameters and their influence on turbine CapEx, farm CapEx, energy capture, OpEx and LCoE. OMCAM was originally developed in 2006 and provides owners and operators with accurate estimations of future project O&M costs and turbine availability for a particular O&M strategy.

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