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Richardson Electronics Completes North America’s Largest Ultracapacitor Retrofit for Wind Turbines

by Anna

In a groundbreaking achievement signaling a significant advancement in renewable energy technology, Richardson Electronics has successfully concluded the first phase of retrofitting over 50,000 ultracapacitor-based pitch energy modules (PEMs) in North America. This marks the most extensive ultracapacitor retrofit in the region and underscores the pivotal role of innovation in enhancing wind turbine performance and sustainability.

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The increasing prominence of wind turbines in the renewable energy landscape reflects a global shift towards sustainable power generation and environmental stewardship. With over 350,000 wind turbines operational worldwide and a steady growth trajectory, wind energy stands as one of the most cost-effective and rapidly expanding forms of renewable energy. In 2021 alone, new installations added 93.6 GW of capacity, bringing the cumulative global wind power capacity to 837 GW, with projections indicating further growth in the coming years.

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Central to the optimization of wind turbine performance is the precise control of blade angles, a task that poses significant engineering challenges. Pitch-controlled wind turbines rely on electromechanical propulsion units to adjust rotor blade angles dynamically, ensuring optimal aerodynamic efficiency and reducing stress on the drive train. The integration of ultracapacitor-based PEMs enhances the responsiveness and reliability of pitch control systems, thereby improving overall turbine performance.

Traditionally, batteries have served as backup energy storage devices in wind turbine pitch control systems, providing power for blade angle adjustments and ensuring system functionality during grid failures or emergencies. However, batteries possess inherent limitations such as limited energy density, susceptibility to performance degradation at high temperatures, and the need for frequent maintenance or replacement.

The introduction of ultracapacitor-based PEMs represents a significant technological advancement in addressing these limitations. Richardson Electronics’ ULTRA3000 PEMs, installed as replacements for General Electric (GE) wind turbine pitch system batteries, offer numerous advantages, including compatibility with GE 20 & 30 Nm pitch systems, superior lifespan exceeding 15 years, and over 1 million charge-discharge cycles. Moreover, the ultracapacitors’ rapid discharge capabilities and solid-state design ensure reliable operation with reduced maintenance requirements, contributing to improved turbine reliability and operational efficiency.

The transition from batteries to ultracapacitors not only enhances the performance and reliability of wind turbine pitch control systems but also delivers substantial environmental benefits. By eliminating 250,000 toxic lead-acid batteries, the ULTRA3000 installation is estimated to save 3,300 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, further advancing the renewable energy sector’s sustainability goals.

Looking ahead, Richardson Electronics is poised to showcase its ultracapacitor PEMs and other innovative product offerings for wind turbine platforms at the upcoming WindEnergy Hamburg Event in September 2024. Through continued advancements in renewable energy technology, Richardson aims to play a pivotal role in driving the global adoption of wind power and fostering a more sustainable future for generations to come.

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