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July 13

Everything You Need to Know About Turbine De-icing Technology

Wind power is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy, according to the federal government. Not only is it the fastest-growing renewable source, but wind energy is one of our best renewable alternatives to fossil-fuel energy production as we transition to a greener energy sector. While there are other issues of concern with wind turbines that are being researched and mitigated, one is of particular importance here. As we all know, the Canadian winter is infamous for being long, cold, and generally miserable. As a result, the winter brings the threat of ice for wind farms in Canada. Ice buildups can damage wind turbines and force them to shut down. Either of these consequences can be quite costly. Between 2010 and 2016, cold climate losses were estimated to total 959 GWh across the country each year, representing lost revenue of $113 million annually. Cold weather conditions are a concern for wind farms, but there are ways to mitigate these consequences. Wind turbine de-icing technology provides us with solutions to these problems. 

Wind power is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy, according to the federal government. Not only is it the fastest-growing renewable source, but wind energy is one of our best renewable alternatives to fossil-fuel energy production as we transition to a greener energy sector. While there are other issues of concern with wind turbines that are being researched and mitigated, one is of particular importance here. As we all know, the Canadian winter is infamous for being long, cold, and generally miserable. As a result, the winter brings the threat of ice for wind farms in Canada. Ice buildups can damage wind turbines and force them to shut down. Either of these consequences can be quite costly. Between 2010 and 2016, cold climate losses were estimated to total 959 GWh across the country each year, representing lost revenue of $113 million annually. Cold weather conditions are a concern for wind farms, but there are ways to mitigate these consequences. Wind turbine de-icing technology provides us with solutions to these problems. 

Ice Complications in Atlantic Canada

Several wind farms in Canada have experienced the difficulties of ice complications. The 150-turbine Lac Alfred wind farm, near Amqui, Quebec, and the 33-turbine Caribou Wind Farm in New Brunswick have suffered issues with ice and de-icing. The Lac Alfred wind farm had to retrofit many of its turbines with de-icing systems, allowing the farm to operate in the winter and make up the costs of the retrofit. The Caribou Wind Farm had struggled with many de-icing options to avoid retrofitting all their turbines at a cost of millions of dollars. In 2018, they had put up a metal roof at the base of their turbines to protect workers from falling ice from the turbines. These issues in our regional context highlight how important the considerations of ice and de-icing are for wind farms.

Several wind farms in Canada have experienced the difficulties of ice complications. The 150-turbine Lac Alfred wind farm, near Amqui, Quebec, and the 33-turbine Caribou Wind Farm in New Brunswick have suffered issues with ice and de-icing. The Lac Alfred wind farm had to retrofit many of its turbines with de-icing systems, allowing the farm to operate in the winter and make up the costs of the retrofit. The Caribou Wind Farm had struggled with many de-icing options to avoid retrofitting all their turbines at a cost of millions of dollars. In 2018, they had put up a metal roof at the base of their turbines to protect workers from falling ice from the turbines. These issues in our regional context highlight how important the considerations of ice and de-icing are for wind farms.

Solutions for De-Icing Wind Turbines

Despite this being a serious issue that the industry is aware of, there is no one-stop solution for the problems ice causes. Wind farms are certain to deal with ice here in Canada, as it is more energy and cost-efficient to operate in colder climates and higher altitudes as the air is denser when its cooler. Operating in denser air means higher energy production and therefore higher profit. Knowing this, companies must look to de-icing options. There are many solutions, none of which entirely fix the issues with ice. From painting the turbines black, to ice-phobic coatings, to heating the blades, to increasing vibrations in the blades, to mounting air tubes that expand and break the ice on the blades, and many more. These solutions are all complex and the results are varied at best.

Despite this being a serious issue that the industry is aware of, there is no one-stop solution for the problems ice causes. Wind farms are certain to deal with ice here in Canada, as it is more energy and cost-efficient to operate in colder climates and higher altitudes as the air is denser when its cooler. Operating in denser air means higher energy production and therefore higher profit. Knowing this, companies must look to de-icing options. There are many solutions, none of which entirely fix the issues with ice. From painting the turbines black, to ice-phobic coatings, to heating the blades, to increasing vibrations in the blades, to mounting air tubes that expand and break the ice on the blades, and many more. These solutions are all complex and the results are varied at best.

De-icing solutions also require equipment to analyze and predict ice build up on the blades to determine when to use said solutions. The coupling of analytic systems and de-icing technologies provide the most efficient response to what we’ve now called the ‘ice issue.’ These systems exist in the form of cameras to visually see ice buildup, infrared-thermal imaging cameras, ice detection equipment, vibration sensors, a controlling ice detector, and so on. The combination of detection and de-icing equipment is called an active anti-icing–de-icing system (ADIS). For ADIS to work, good detection equipment must be paired with de-icing equipment (likely heating). Any delay between detection and activation of de-icing equipment can result in a reduction of power production of about 5–15%Nonetheless, extensive research is still being carried out to determine what the most effective form of ADIS will be. For now, the common pairing used by the industry is some form of detection equipment with the heating of the blade. This paired with more assessments and research by companies before developing a wind farm will result in fewer complications and higher energy production efficiency. 

De-icing solutions also require equipment to analyze and predict ice build up on the blades to determine when to use said solutions. The coupling of analytic systems and de-icing technologies provide the most efficient response to what we’ve now called the ‘ice issue.’ These systems exist in the form of cameras to visually see ice buildup, infrared-thermal imaging cameras, ice detection equipment, vibration sensors, a controlling ice detector, and so on. The combination of detection and de-icing equipment is called an active anti-icing–de-icing system (ADIS). For ADIS to work, good detection equipment must be paired with de-icing equipment (likely heating). Any delay between detection and activation of de-icing equipment can result in a reduction of power production of about 5–15%. Nonetheless, extensive research is still being carried out to determine what the most effective form of ADIS will be. For now, the common pairing used by the industry is some form of detection equipment with the heating of the blade. This paired with more assessments and research by companies before developing a wind farm will result in fewer complications and higher energy production efficiency. 

Between 2010 and 2016, cold climate losses for wind turbines were estimated to total 959 GWh across the country each year, representing lost revenue of $113 million annually.

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The topic of wind turbine de-icing is a tricky and complicated one. This blog has aimed to condense all the complex information into one bite-sized explanation of de-icing for wind turbines, and its importance. This subject is constantly developing along with the renewable energy sector and will likely change and see innovation in the coming years. Whatever the case may be, Naveco Power will always keep up with the highest industry standards and innovations. The world is always changing, so stagnation and complacency won’t get us anywhere. Innovation will get us somewhere, and hopefully wind energy is an innovation New Brunswickers will embrace going forward into a cleaner tomorrow.  

 

Resources

https://www.windpowerengineering.com/the-cold-hard-truth-about-ice-on-turbine-blades/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165232X10000108 

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/energy-sources-distribution/renewables/wind-energy/wind-energy-cold-climates/7321 

https://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2019/09/23/turbineicing 

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/energy-sources-distribution/renewables/about-renewable-energy/7295 

The topic of wind turbine de-icing is a tricky and complicated one. This blog has aimed to condense all the complex information into one bite-sized explanation of de-icing for wind turbines, and its importance. This subject is constantly developing along with the renewable energy sector and will likely change and see innovation in the coming years. Whatever the case may be, Naveco Power will always keep up with the highest industry standards and innovations. The world is always changing, so stagnation and complacency won’t get us anywhere. Innovation will get us somewhere, and hopefully wind energy is an innovation New Brunswickers will embrace going forward into a cleaner tomorrow.  

 

Resources

https://www.windpowerengineering.com/the-cold-hard-truth-about-ice-on-turbine-blades/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165232X10000108 

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/energy-sources-distribution/renewables/wind-energy/wind-energy-cold-climates/7321 

https://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2019/09/23/turbineicing 

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/energy-sources-distribution/renewables/about-renewable-energy/7295 

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