Woodward Kempen develops and manufactures frequency converters for wind turbines - with SIBA fuses on board
Just months after German chancellor Merkel's call for an energy turnaround, German Wind Energy Association BWE reported that in the first six months of 2011, wind generating capacity had grown by 793 MW, or 20%, compared to the year before - welcome news not only for wind turbines, but also for the fuses that safeguard them.
Growth in wind power is leading to a boom
Far from being limited to new installations, the growth in wind power is also leading to a boom in what is called repowering - the replacement of old wind turbines with more powerful units. With 22,000 turbines installed, wind-based power generation capacity in Germany today lies at almost 28,000 MW. Of the latter, 3 MW were fed into the national grid between midnight and one o'clock in the morning on August 2, 2011 - as shown on transparency.eex.com, a service provided by the Leipzig Energy Exchange. For such input to function flawlessly, most modern wind turbines require frequency converters. With 8,000 such converters sold worldwide, primarily for use in large wind turbines, Woodward Kempen GmbH is a premier name in the market. The company's current product line, CONCYCLE, also relies on SIBA products for protection.
Schaltanlagen-Elektronik-Geräte GmbH (SEG), a Kempen-based firm founded in 1969, was acquired in 2006 by Woodward, a US-based conglomerate, which soon proceeded to funnel the energy systems specialist's know-how into a new unit called Electrical Power Systems, complete with departments focusing on power solutions, power distribution and wind power systems.
Alongside established protective and switchgear equipment, thorough knowledge of converters has long been a strong suit of Woodward Kempen's. And just like its predecessor SEG as a provider of turnkey power installations and power converters did, Woodward Kempen puts its trust in fuses made by SIBA. In the world of wind power, where steady winds are rare, the loads placed on converters are huge, as it is their "core business" to harmonize generator output so that electricity can be fed into the grid in a controlled and reliable manner. This is no easy undertaking, and requires a lot of know-how. It comes as no surprise, then, that around 12 percent of Kempen staff work in research and development and the company maintains close ties to 15 institutes of higher learning with a reputation in science.
Because of the special loads put on frequency converters, the fuses that protect them are of highly sophisticated design and capable of meeting a wide range of requirements - which is why SIBA and Woodward cooperate closely already during the development stage of new fuses.
"Price and on-time delivery is what our purchasers go by"
As it turns out, know-how and product quality are but two of the criteria that the energy systems experts from the lower Rhine town of Kempen have in common with the Lünen-based fuse maker. Having grown into an international and strictly business-oriented enterprise, the people at Woodward see things quite unemotionally: "Price and on-time delivery is what our purchasers go by", they emphasize. In terms of the latter, priority is given not so much to speed but to dependability. SIBA sales engineer Jörg Mattusch explains: "Our customers gain nothing if I promise quick delivery only because they would like it that way. I rather agree on realistic timeframes which I am able to keep to the minute." Predictable cooperation, therefore, is the name of the game which, following a slump in 2009, again looks promising for the wind sector. Still, more remains to be done. As German Wind Energy Association head Hermann Albers put it in an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper: "The slight increase in wind generating capacity doesn't make the climate and energy policy a success yet." He called for more straightforward approval procedures, improved funding and more space for wind turbines. Even current growth rates, according to Mr. Albers, do not suffice to reach the goal of generating 70,000 MW by the year 2020 from wind power alone. This would require a tripling of the growth in generating capacity currently achieved in a single year for a total of nine years in a row. Speedy progress is currently being achieved in the offshore wind business in particular. According to VDMA, the German Machine and Plant Engineering Association, projects featuring the erection of wind turbines with a capacity totaling 2,000 MW in the North and Baltic Seas by the year 2013 have been contracted already. News that Woodward, for one, will be glad to hear, as their portfolio includes the CONCYCLE Medium Voltage Full Size Converter developed especially for use in offshore wind turbines.
With SIBA fuses on board, of course.