Acciona trials solar modules to power wind turbine

VIDEO: Acciona has installed flexible carbon-based photovoltaic (PV) modules on a turbine in Spain in an attempt to make wind power more efficient.

Acciona installed 120 PV panels on an AW77/1500 turbine in south-east Spain
Acciona installed 120 PV panels on an AW77/1500 turbine in south-east Spain

It plans to study the behaviour of PV panels and their ability to optimise the efficiency of wind energy by powering a turbine’s internal electrical consumption.

The manufacturer believes the ultra-thin modules could reduce turbines' energy consumption during periods of low wind.

Meanwhile, their low-cost could enable further cost reductions for renewable energy in the future.

Even when a turbine is not producing much energy, it still requires power to continue to operate, which is typically drawn from the grid.

This can lead to net energy consumption during low-wind periods and downtime for maintenance, Acciona's PV innovation manager Raquel Rojo explained.

But by connecting PV panels to two inverters that convert direct current into alternating current — which is suitable for the network that feeds the turbine’s electrical equipment — this deficit can be reduced, the manufacturer believes.

Breña hybrid project

To test this, Acciona has installed 120 PV panels on an AW77/1500 turbine at its 36MW Breña wind farm, south-east Spain.

The panels are supplied by solar solutions company Heliatek and are just one millimetre thick.

They are made of carbon — unlike conventional silicon-based PV modules — resulting in a flexible structure.

This means the panels can be installed on different kinds of surface, Acciona explained.

Site assembly manager Luis Sánchez said the modules are installed in a southeast-southwest orientation to better capture energy throughout the day.

Acciona will monitor data relating to the turbine’s performance to evaluate the efficiency of power generation and assess degradation of the PV panel.

Belén Linares, director of energy innovation at Acciona, explained the PV modules are light and flexible, and their low manufacturing costs are "an interesting indicator of (the technology's) potential for cost reductions in general".

"The Breña hybridisation project is an optimisation of the use of space for renewable production and will allow us to test the efficiency of organic photovoltaics — a technology that we believe has one of the greatest curves of improving technological efficiency," she added.

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