Wind Turbine Generators
You can see the internal cooling fan moving inside this generator. It is mounted at the end of the rotor, which is hidden inside the shining magnetic steel cylinder, called the stator. The radiator-like surface cools the generator. It is hard to see the details on a real life generator like the one to the right. Therefore, we'll take it apart and make some simplified models on the next pages.
The wind turbine generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy.
Wind turbine generators are a bit unusual, compared to other generating units you ordinarily find attached to the electrical grid. One reason is that the generator has to work with a power source (the wind turbine rotor) which supplies very fluctuating mechanical power (torque).
These pages assumes that you are familiar with the basics of electricity, electromagnetism, and in particular alternating current. If any of the expressions volt (V), phase, three phase, frequency, or Hertz (Hz) sound strange to you, you should take a look at the Reference Manual on Electricity , and read about alternating current , three phase alternating current , electromagnetism , and induction , before you proceed with the following pages.
Generating Voltage (tension)
On large wind turbines (above 100-150 kW) the voltage (tension) generated by the turbine is usually 690 V three-phase alternating current (AC). The current is subsequently sent through a transformer next to the wind turbine (or inside the tower) to raise the voltage to somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 volts, depending on the standard in the local electrical grid.
Large manufacturers will supply both 50 Hz wind turbine models (for the electrical grids in most of the world) and 60 Hz models (for the electrical grid in America).
Generators need cooling while they work. On most turbines this is accomplished by encapsulating the generator in a duct, using a large fan for air cooling, but a few manufacturers use water cooled generators. Water cooled generators may be built more compactly, which also gives some electrical efficiency advantages, but they require a radiator in the nacelle to get rid of the heat from the liquid cooling system.
Starting and Stopping the Generator
If you connected (or disconnected) a large wind turbine generator to the grid by flicking an ordinary switch, you would be quite likely to damage both the generator, the gearbox and the current in the grid in the neighbourhood.
You will learn how turbine designers deal with this challenge in the page on Power Quality Issues , later.
Design Choices in Generators and Grid Connection
Wind turbines may be designed with either synchronous or asynchronous generators, and with various forms of direct or indirect grid connection of the generator.
Direct grid connection mean that the generator is connected directly to the (usually 3-phase) alternating current grid.
Indirect grid connection means that the current from the turbine passes through a series of electric devices which adjust the current to match that of the grid. With an asynchronous generator this occurs automatically.
© Copyright 1997-2003 Danish Wind Industry Association
Updated 19 September 2003