Windtech: Inside Enercon's high-tech test site

GERMANY: Having made it into the top-three of the world's largest wind-turbine suppliers in 2013 with total installations amounting to 3.7GW, compared with 3.5GW in 2012, Enercon is aiming for the 4GW mark this year, according to managing director Nicole Fritsch-Nehring.

Ready and waiting… Generator test stand in Enercon'snew research centre
Ready and waiting… Generator test stand in Enercon'snew research centre

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She is confident that the German manufacturer can retain its third position, considering Enercon's presence and strong position in several European markets, led by its German home market, as well as in countries such as Canada and Uruguay.

The small north-west German town of Aurich has been home to Enercon's headquarters and its base since the company was founded in 1984. The most recent addition to its facilities is the Wobben Research & Development (WRD) Centre. It sits on the town's outskirts, and features 13,000 square metres dedicated to the testing and verification of blades, generators, full nacelles, components and materials. The centre will accommodate 700 engineers, scientists and support staff. Investment in the testing area alone was EUR30 million.

The new WRD centre allows centralised research and development activities, says Fritsch-Nehring, who is responsible for all R&D. Enercon introduced a more processand cost-oriented organisational structure a year ago, she adds. "This set-up allows faster, more effective communication and exchange of results between R&D staff and other company divisions, while streamlining and speeding up innovative processes shows superior reduction in overall costs."

Nacelle testing

In a dedicated hall for generator and nacelle testing, a giant in-house developed multi-purpose test bay, which was still being completed at the time of Windpower Monthly's visit, will offer a built-in capability for three different generator/nacelle testing options.

The first option involves the back-to-back testing of two 3MW E-115 ring generators, where one machine acting in electric motor mode drives the second machine, which acts in generator mode. Alternatively the two E-115 motors can together power a higher rated single generator. In the final option, up to three motors can drive one turbine nacelle. This nacelle is put on a flexible mounting platform capable of making pre-programmed tilting and other movements in the vertical and horizontal plane, for simulating realistic tower-nacelle-rotor system life operating conditions.

In another test hall, blades up to 70 metres long are statically and dynamically tested to simulate a 25-year operating lifecycle. A separate acoustic laboratory is used for component and system noise analysis and optimisation.

Battery and grid work

"We are also stepping up research in the area of energy storage while testing different battery types and applications," says Fritsch-Nehring. "Our main focus is on grid integration technology and battery management. Production ramp-up of the 2.3MW E-92, focused on export markets, is also steaming ahead, while E-92 blade manufacture is concentrated in Portugal and Brazil."

The sub-megawatt 800kW E-48/E-53 and 900kW E-44 turbine models introduced between 2004 and 2006 will continue to be part of the products portfolio, but no future successor products are planned.

New MW turbine

Around 40 pre-series E-115 turbines should be operational by the end of 2014. Developing the new 3MW turbine series, including the E-101 is thereby more or less completed.

On the topic of future product development plans with the giant 7.5MW E-126, first introduced as a 6MW turbine model in 2007, Fritsch-Nehring replies: "Our current priority is closing the gap between our 7.5MW and 3.0MW turbine portfolio, with a prototype planned for late 2015.

"All I can further release at this stage is that the overall concept has been optimised for high-yield performance, transport logistics and ease of installation, and it comes with a choice of (high) tower options. Vertical integration of production remains again a key overall strategy, as with all our other turbine platforms.

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