You are on page 1of 4



Jürgen K. Steinke, Oscar Apeldoorn
ABB Schweiz AG, Automation Technology Products
Dept. ATPT Development Power Electronics
Austrasse, 5300 Turgi, Switzerland

ABSTRACT: Today’s turbines with a power > 2 MW are all variable speed turbines. For offshore applications the
concept with the minimal maintenance requirement is the gearless turbine with a permanent magnet excited generator.
The maintenance interval is extendable up to a full year. A full-scale converter has to be applied. The full-scale converter
allows optimizing the power curve, which is not restricted by gear resonance frequencies. The conversion efficiency of
this system is very competitive, especially in partial load operation. The converter should be based on an industrial
standard design in order to profit from the broad experience existing in this kind of applications. This increases the
reliability of the new turbine generation in addition to the reduced failure probability achieved by the simple system
structure. Another competitive advantage of systems with full-scale converter is their feature to be easily adaptable to
different grid requirements. New requirements for the operation of wind parks at the grid like e.g. uninterrupted operation
in the case of voltage dips or large frequency deviations can be easily met.
Keywords: Power Converter, Power Electronics, Offshore, Power Quality, IGCT


For turbines up to 2 MW, the converter-less structure While turbines up to 2.5 MW are already produced in
has been applied successfully in the past and resulted in a series, turbines with higher power levels are either under
very simple system. New high performance turbines have development, in a concept study phase or just ideas. Most
been built with variable speed systems; either using of the next generation turbines are expected to be part of
double fed induction generators with a small converter or large wind-farms, either situated offshore or, in countries
gearless systems with full-scale converters. All power with low population density, also inland. Inside these
levels have been covered by utilizing low voltage wind-farms the requirement on the control of the turbines
technology. At converter power levels higher than about is different from the traditional way of control of turbines.
500 kVA, a parallel connection of converter modules Today a turbine is seen as a consumer, which just by
fulfilled the technical requirements. chance feeds energy into the grid. E.g. in case of too low
An indicator for the cabling and connection costs of frequency, it has to disconnect itself immediately.
such a system is the effective current, which loads the Another fact is that today a windturbine is operated
connections between nacelle and tower bottom. In a always in a way to feed as much energy as possible to the
690 V system a phase current of 1700 A is reached at grid, even if there is just a wind gust.
about 2 MW. This causes already a parallel connection of Inside a large windfarm the future turbines face new
multiple cables per phase and also a substantial voltage control requirements. The farm is seen as power
drop. The only way to avoid this disadvantage is to place generation equipment. In case of too low frequency e.g.
the electrical conversion system including the transformer the turbines have to maintain the power level to support
into the nacelle. Because of the necessity to connect low the grid. Another requirement might be to limit the
voltage converter modules in parallel the space needed by generated power to a level below the actual maximum
the converters rises proportional to their power. A level. Another important requirement is that the turbine
reduction of the size can be achieved by a change of the shall stay in operation in case of reclosing operations,
converter technology. which are done in case of short circuit problems in the
In industrial power conversion it is generally known grid.
that low voltage is most cost-efficient at low power levels Integrating full-scale converters into the turbine
while medium voltage is superior at high power levels. conversion system allows to fulfill not only the
The limit between these two ranges is dependent on the requirement for variable speed, which mainly results from
application and is found for most of the applications mechanical constraints, but also the power quality
between 1.5 MW and 2.5 MW. requirements.
This rule of experience proves to be valid also for Looking at power levels above 4 MW, full-scale
windpower conversion. Medium voltage converters for power conversion is expected to be done at an industrial
the power range between 2 MW and 6 MW are more medium voltage level in the range of 3 to 6 kV.
compact than low voltage converters. Compared to low In order to be prepared for the next generation of
voltage converters their price level is competitive and turbines it has been decided to develop a wind turbine
they include fewer components, which is an inherent converter for a 2 MW turbine. Reason for this “low
advantage with respect to reliability. Cables and power” was the possibility to get early experience from
connections are reduced in costs while the transformer is operation because the really large turbines are still under
basically not affected with respect to costs. The same is mechanical development.
valid for the generator.
3 BASED ON BROAD EXPERIENCE over-excited design requires a larger machine, especially
also more of the expensive magnet material, which leads
Windturbines are expected to have a high availability. to a more costly generator. As a second disadvantage, the
This led to the decision to build the first 2 MW full-scale over-excited generator reacts with a step to a much higher
converters based on existing technology which is on a terminal voltage in case of a sudden relief of load, which
good level of maturity. The appropriate industrial type of e.g. happens in the case of a grid outage. This results in a
converter was a medium voltage converter introduced in dramatically larger voltage operating range of the
1998 based on three-level technology and the converter compared to a 4-Q converter for a machine with
semiconductor switch IGCT (Integrated Gate under-excited design. Therefore the installed converter
Commutated Thyristor) [1 – 3]. This family of converters power is much higher for a 2-Q converter than for a 4-Q
(“ACS 1000”) was available for the power range from 0.5 converter. Both disadvantages of the system with 2-Q
MVA to 5.5 MVA at voltage levels of 3.3 kV and 4.0 kV. converter compensate its apparent cost advantage
These converters are optimized for drives i.e. optimized resulting from the simpler switching elements. Final
to feed electrical motors. For the operation in conclusion of the system optimization was that the system
windturbines it was necessary to extend the operating optimum in a generation system with PM-SG is achieved
range from 2-quadrant operation to 4-quadrant operation when combining it with a 4-quadrant converter.
and also to develop the control algorithms for new types
of machines like e.g. permanent magnet excited
synchronous generators. 5 CIRCUIT DIAGRAM OF THE WINDPOWER

4 2-QUADRANT OR 4-QUADRANT CONVERTER ? Figure 1 shows the basic circuit diagram of the 4-
quadrant windpower converter.
The most advanced generator type is the permanent The main building blocks of the converter are the two
magnet excited synchronous machine (PM-SG). This inverter modules connected by the dc-link and the grid
machine offers, compared at the same power level and filter module. The basic circuit diagram also shows
machine size, the best efficiency value of all types of auxiliary circuits like the clamping circuits and the dv/dt-
machines and is a very robust machine because it doesn’t filter on the generator side. Three-level inverters are
include slip rings. During the concept phase it has been commonly used in medium voltage industrial converters.
discussed whether the 2-quadrant converter or the 4- The grid filter is a LC-filter in combination with a special
quadrant converter is the optimal converter for this damping circuit for the lowest order harmonic.
system. From the functional aspect both types could be In normal operation always two semiconductor
used: The PM-SG doesn’t need to be magnetized from the switches in each phase are in the blocking state. This
converter like an asynchronous machine but is able to allows to work at twice of the dc-link voltage of a two-
deliver the commutation voltages for the diodes by itself. level converter using the same elements. Compared to the
Therefore it could be operated with a diode bridge. The 4- series connection of elements the three-level
quadrant converter is a universal solution that can operate configuration has got substantial advantages: The neutral-
with any kind of generator. The 2-quadrant converter point diodes guarantee the voltage sharing between the
(diode bridge at the generator, inverter at the grid) has two blocking IGCTs without the need for special voltage
been in favor at the beginning because it is simpler to sharing networks. In addition to that the neutral-point
control and diodes are always cheaper than active potential may also be switched to the output terminals.
semiconductor switches. But it turned out during the This results in smaller voltage steps at the output and
design phase of generator and converter that the 4- lower current ripple. Compared to a two-level converter
quadrant solution led to the system optimum. The reason with the same average switching frequency of the
was that the generator in case of a 2-Q converter has to be individual IGCTs the ripple is 4 times lower.
designed to be over-excited all the time while the 4-Q The clamp circuit limits the voltage across the IGCTs
converter allows having an under-excited design. The after turn-off. Integrated is also a choke that limits the

generator dc link grid
converter converter
Clamp Clamp
main circuit breaker

generator grid
filter filter

Gen 3
3.5 kV
4.0 kV

Clamp Clamp

Windpower Converter

Figure 1: Basic circuit diagram of the 4-quadrant windpower converter
di/dt during the commutation of the current from a released by turning a big screw at the right end of the
conducting freewheeling diode to a turning-on IGCT. It’s construction and then each IGCT of that stack can be
the diode that needs the limitation, not the IGCT. pulled out. The whole procedure takes just some minutes.
On the generator side a small dv/dt-filter limits the Especially important for an easy and fast exchange is that
rate of voltage rise at the generator terminals. there is no need to open the water-cooling circuit.
Although the transformer is easy to design in such a
way that it can withstand the high dv/dt of the switching
IGCTs, a grid filter is necessary. Its main function is the
limitation of harmonic currents to a level that allows
fulfilling IEEE 519-1992 even for very weak grids (down
to a short circuit ratio of only 10). With an extended filter
also the German “VDEW-Richtlinie“ can be fulfilled.


A converter for windturbines is not a typical standard
product but adapted to the individual design of the
turbine. This is economically possible because such a
converter will be produced in high quantities. The 2 MW
converter was intended to be placed inside the tower. This
restricted the length of the converter to about 3.5 m. The
standard converter, which also includes a filter, has got a
length of 4.0 m. In order to fit the windpower converter
into the available space the filter was taken out from the
main cabinet and placed behind it.
Fig. 2 shows a photograph of the converter taken
from the front side. Figure 3: Grid and generator converter

Fig. 4 shows a graphic that gives an impression where the
converter is placed inside the tower.

Figure 2: Windpower converter

The main functional groups are (from left to right):
- Control cabinet
- Dc-link, dv/dt-filter, generator cable terminals
- Double inverter unit
- Water-cooling unit
The dimensions of the basic converter module are: (H
x W x D) 2.35m x 3.4m x 1.0m.
The filter cabinet not only includes the filter
components but also the terminals for the cables to the
transformer. It may be connected either to the backside or
to the left side of the main converter cabinet. This
flexibility allows adapting the footprint to the available Figure 4: Converter inside the turbine tower
floor space. The dimensions of the filter cabinet are: (H x
W x D) 2.35m x 1.2m x 1.0m.
Fig. 3 shows the core elements of the windpower 7 CONVERTER TESTS
converter, which are the active semiconductor switches
integrated into one mechanical frame. Before the first installation in a wind turbine, the
All semiconductors of one phase are integrated into converter has been tested in a back-to-back test at the test
one mechanical stack. Six of these stacks are placed site of the generator factory. The back-to-back test
horizontally inside the frame. The horizontal position installation consisted of two identical converters, each
allows an easy access to the semiconductors. In case an connected on one side to the grid and on the other side to
exchange is necessary the pressure from one stack can be
one of two identical generators. The shafts of the 8 CONCLUSION
generators were coupled. The generators were permanent LOOKING FORWARD TO 4 – 6 MW
magnet excited machines designed for a gearless
windturbine, i.e. their rated speed was exactly that of the The new converter has first been tested in a back-to-
turbine rotor. back test set-up and is now in operation in a 2 MW wind
Fig. 5 shows a photograph from the test set-up. turbine. The new control algorithms, which are not
described in this paper, operate this system without the
need of a sensor for the mechanical rotor position or rotor
The converter is already prepared for higher power
ratings and can be upgraded to higher power levels. By
exchanging semiconductors, replacing current sensitive
elements by larger ones and adapt the energy storing
elements to the bigger size, 3.5 MW or 5 MW generator
power can be converted without changing the outside
dimensions of the converter. The 4-quadrant structure
makes it possible to utilize the developed converter for all
kind of systems that need full-scale power conversion:
Squirrel cage asynchronous generators or synchronous
generators in a system with gear or gearless.
Figure 5: Back-to back system test The technical status of today’s semiconductors does
not allow switching them with high frequency, if the
In order to speed-up the test installation the efficiency should be kept high. This leads to the necessity
converters have been put into containers. The containers to put passive filters between transformer and converter
can be seen on the left side of the picture, the generators and between generator and converter. New semiconductor
on the right side. elements are expected in the near future that will allow an
Fig. 6 shows the measured generator current and operation at higher frequencies with reduced filter size or
phase to converter neutral-point voltage at a load of even without the need for filtering. The existing
1.5 MW. technology is a good basis for prototype testing and first
series of multi-megawatt turbines, but the real big
quantities, which are not expected to be delivered before
2006, might already be equipped with the next generation
of converters.


[1] Steinke, J.K.; Steimer, P.K., Medium voltage drive
converter for industrial applications in the power
range from 0.5 MW to 5 MW based on a three-level
converter equipped with IGCTs, PWM Medium
Voltage Drives (Ref. No. 2000/063), IEE Seminar,
2000 Page(s): 6/1 -6/4
[2] Steinke, J.K., Switching frequency optimal PWM
control of a three-level inverter, IEEE Transactions
Figure 6: Generator current and phase to neutral voltage on Power Electronics, Volume: 7 Issue: 3, July 1992
Page(s): 487 –496
Also successfully tested were e.g. the reaction on a [3] Steimer, P., Apeldoorn, O., Carroll, E., Nagel, A.:
sudden loss of the grid of the generator related converter, IGCT technology baseline and future opportunities,
and the protective generator short circuit via the IEEE/PES Transmission and Distribution Conference
converter’s semiconductors in case of an over-speed and Exposition, Vol. 2, 2001, pp. 1182-1187
above the defined over-speed range. Also shown was the
ability of slowly turning the generator with energy
coming from the converter. This motor mode might be
useful for inspection of the rotor.
For further tests the converter has been installed at a
turbine site and went into operation in June 2002.