Putting tidal turbines to the test

2013-10-14 - The world’s first drive train test facility for tidal turbines and marine renewable technologies is powered by a state-of-the-art ABB drive system.
By ABB Communications

Project Nautilus is the world’s first drive train test facility for tidal turbines and marine renewable technologies.

The $20 million facility is part of the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in the north of England. Narec is a government-backed center for researching, developing and testing renewable energy and low carbon power generation technologies such as wind, solar, tidal and wave.

Nautilus enables Narec customers to perform accelerated lifetime and extreme event testing of entire tidal power nacelles and individual drive train components in a controlled onshore environment.

“We can replicate about six months of tidal conditions that you would otherwise have to wait a couple of years to occur within the actual environment,” says Tony Quinn, operations director, Narec.

“You will not see anywhere else in the world a concentration of test facilities of this scale and magnitude.”
Tony Quinn, Operations Director, Narec

The facility performs the full range of mechanical and electrical load tests on the entire turbine and its key components, including the drive shafts, bearings, gearbox, generator and power converters. This enables the turbine’s performance to be evaluated and optimized prior to deployment at sea, thus improving reliability and reducing financial risk.

At the heart of the Nautilus test facility is a state-of-the-art ABB drive system that powers and speed-controls the drive train and enables it to operate with precision and energy efficiency. The solution comprises a broad range of ABB technologies - 3.2 megawatt water-cooled motor, an ACS 6000 medium-voltage variable speed drive, medium- and low-voltage switchgear, distribution transformers, and a DriveMonitor™ monitoring and diagnostic system for the medium-voltage drive.

ABB was selected by Narec for its ability to design and deliver a complete solution, including portable housing for the drives, switchgear and transformers.

“We have been really pleased with ABB’s performance,” says Tony Quinn. “Projects of this nature are rare; they are one-off in terms of scale and technicalities. It takes a very special team to pull together and overcome the inevitable hurdles.

“ABB, with its extensive knowledge of test facilities and one-off projects, provided an exceptional project management team: they were positive, nimble and reactive. As operations director, my job is to get involved when things go wrong. I did not have to get involved with ABB at all.”

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