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Shermco Industries 2425 East Pioneer Drive Irving, TX 75061 USA email@example.com
Abstract - A quantitative analysis of utility scale wind turbine generator failures from 2005 through 2010 shows a similarity to failure types to those experienced in general industry . The total failure rate compared to deployed machines has not been surveyed, but there are certainly ongoing concerns regarding the apparent high levels of early failures. Most of the failures are, unsurprisingly, directly related to bearing damage due to improper lubrication and/or machine alignment. A significant and growing phenomenon involves failures of the insulation system across several styles and manufacturers. Root cause for these failures has not been determined in all cases and it is likely to be found outside of the generator itself, however, the ultimate failure is with the mechanical or electrical elements of the insulation system. Additionally, most wind turbine generators are designed and manufactured in Europe utilizing insulation system designs that often follow a different tradition and, possibly, philosophy than their North America counterparts. In this report, we will consider the electrical failure types of these machines, some root cause assumptions, and will present a comparison of a typical original equipment manufacturer (OEM) wind turbine generator insulation system design with a possible North American alternative chosen to improve generator life expectancy. Keywords-component; wind; turbines; generators; failures; insulation systems;
excepting the high bearing failure rate, the performance of the insulation systems has had a major affect on the life of the machine, regardless of root cause. Very few of the failures have proven to be solely electrical in nature, but commonly occur as a result of weakness in the mechanical function of the support materials design in both stationary and rotating elements. The issues of 50hz vs. 60hz operation, including higher rotational speed in some cases, has compounded the problem as has the well documented issue of long cable runs (>100M in many cases) where IGBT drives supply power to the generators for excitation and/or output frequency control.
Shermco Industries Machine Services Division, a motor and generator remanufacturing facility serving general industrial and utility customers as well as the wind energy market sector, has electronically recorded service data on repair and remanufacture projects since 2005. Failure modes and occurrences of generators utilized in wind turbines have been collected and published previously  as has a close review of the electrical failure modes . Based on that data set, it has become obvious that,
Figure 1 Catastrophic 2MW Rotor Failure
Understanding these failure modes and what might be done during a remanufacturing process to extend the life of the generator is critical to providing the service required by the equipment owners. Most of the generator designs
utilized in wind turbines are conceived and often manufactured in Europe utilizing insulation systems that reflect historical materials and processes. During a remanufacturing process, is it unusual to redesign the electrical circuitry of the machine, but often the insulating materials used by the OEM are not readily available in North America. Also, it is common to develop design strategies to improve the system longevity based on field experience gained since the original design was introduced. This paper, will present a review of the failures and look at some differences between a typical OEM insulation for these generators and a typical North American design solution. II. FAILURE MODES A. Failure Categories:
shorted coil. On occasion, catastrophic failure of the rotor banding is caused by an over-speed condition especially in machines originally designed to operate at 50hz. (Fig. 1) Newer designs have increased the over-speed capabilities of the rotors, but there are still older machines in use that continue to fail after 7-10 years.
Figure 2 - Failure types and occurrences - generators <1MW
As illustrated in previous publications, the failure modes encountered in damaged wind turbine generators are readily defined and illustrated. As reported by George Gao and William Chen at the EIC in 2009 , several common failure modes have been identified, many of which can be traced to identifiable root causes. However, specific failures remain difficult to identify as minor failures can lead to catastrophic electrical failures not directly related to the root cause . In addition, it is rare to receive alignment, vibration or power quality data points on individual machines. Below are examples of the common failure modes for these generator types: Rotor insulation damage (strand/turn/ground) Stator insulation damage (strand/turn/ground) Bearing failures Rotor lead failures Shorts in collector rings Magnetic wedge failures Cooling system failures Other mechanical damage Based on the review of over 1200 failed generators repaired or remanufactured from 2005-2010, failure modes and occurrences among three size ranges of generators are shown in figures 2-4. B. Failure Statistics: A review of the failure occurrence study results show that bearing failures are by far the leading cause of damage in the larger (generally newer) generators. In the smaller, often random wound generators, winding failures are more common. This is probably due to the inherent weaker mechanical properties of a random wound design as well as the time in service of the machines. Again, most of these failures begin as a breakdown in the support structure, resin weight loss or blocking material damage and progress to a
Figure 3 - Failure types and occurrences - generators 1-2MW
Figure 4 - Failure types and occurrences - generators >2MW
60 40 20 0 Industrial Wind
Figure 5 – Industrial vs. wind failures 
II. COMMON INSULATION SYSTEMS C. Root Cause Assumptions: A. Typical European-style OEM Systems: Based on these statistics, we can assume some general elements that contribute to premature failures of the insulating materials – recognizing that most of the generators larger than 1.5MW have less than five years of service. These are not necessarily root causes, but are the failure points that might be addressed during remanufacturing. 1) Random wound designs (up to 2MW): • • • • • • • 50hz machines operating at higher RPMs to generate 60hz Inadequate banding on rotating element Inadequate phase insulation on stator and rotor Damage to fragile wire insulation during manufacturing process Shortened insulation life due to VFD issues In-slot failures due to inadequate slot fill/resin treatment Contamination Most of the utility scale wind turbine fleet utilizes generators that operate at 575 or 690 volts AC. There are a few designs that operate at higher voltage (12.5kV range), but they utilize traditional high voltage insulation systems that seem to perform as designed with the exception a few occurrences of lost stator wedges. Most generators are of the double fed induction type and the rotor windings are often designed to operate at up to 3kV from the inverter system. There are several popular turbines that utilize squirrel cage induction generators with fully converted power going to the grid. This allows for the generator to operate over a wide speed range rather than at or near synchronous speed where the DFIG design is commonly used. The random wound insulation system designs follow typical LV schemes utilizing multiple parallel strands (up to 35) of “inverter” duty conductor with aramid fiber/PET film slot liners, fillers and wedges. Nothing is unusual with this type of system beyond the use on rather large machine designs. Typical tying and blocking materials and processes are also used. Rotating elements for DFIG type generators utilize glass fiber banding tape on the evolutes which can be random wound or, better, constructed using formed bars. The units are normally processed with a class H or above polyesterimide resin by vacuum pressure impregnation (VPI) or trickle methodology.
2) Form wound designs (660kW to 3MW) • • • • • Damage to rotor leads in DFIG designs (connections and shaft wiring) Damage to stator leads (normally due to overheating) Rotor connection shorts (vibration, overload, VFD issues) General overheating due to inadequate air flow Loose stator coils due to loss of magnetic wedges
Figure 7 – Typical OEM Insulation System
Figure 6 - Missing slot wedges
For the low voltage form wound designs, most manufacturers have chosen to use an insulation system that could be described as a “hybrid” form using insulated slots (similar to a random wound design) with formed rectangular conductors. The conductors normally utilize mica/PET film strand insulation which is common in high voltage motor and generator system designs. In some
machines there is also a thin consolidating ground wall of mica/PET film applied to the coil. The slot liners and phase insulators are typically aramid fiber/PET film laminates with some use of armor tape on the coil evolutes. Some machines utilize glass or PET cloth armor tape over the entire coil in lieu of the ground wall insulation. In a few designs, typical epoxy glass composites are used as the main wedge and filler materials, however it is much more common for magnetic wedges to be used to optimize output for a given machine dimension. The stators for these machines are typically resin treated by VPI using epoxy acid anhydride resin (typical HV resin) or a polyesterimide resin.
were taped to improve phase insulation values and improve bonding. Additional ties and blocking materials were added to assure good mechanical strength and to improve strand to strand bonding within the evolute package. For the rotating elements, similar steps were taken and additional banding was calculated and added to improve over-speed performance. In some cases a 2 minute overspeed test at 10-20% of rated RPM is requested. The stator leads are taped into position with an armor tape to improve vibration during operation. Both elements are VPI treated with a thixotropic epoxy resin to improve retention in the slot section and to fully impregnate and reinforce the blocking and armor materials (Fig. 8). This has proven to be a reliable system in industrial and marine applications and is performing very well in wind turbine applications. Over 400 of this type of generator have been remanufactured since 2005 and are still performing well in the field with minimal return rates even after the warranty period. The failure modes on the form wound machines fall into two key areas where improvements are proving to be effective. The first is in the failure of the rotor leads that run through the shaft to the collector ring assembly in DFIG designs. Often the insulation on these wire are damaged by vibration or heat and the connections to the rotor windings are often damaged from vibration and/or rotational forces. The connections are easy to reinforce utilizing traditional industrial methods and the rotor wiring can be upgraded to a higher thermal class of insulation and the movement in the shaft controlled by using a potting compound or similar method.
Figure 8 – Remanufactured random wound rotor
B. Some suggestions for remanufacturing: Based on the failure modes most commonly seen, several changes to the insulation system seemed logical to improve longevity of the generators. These material changes were mostly focused on the mechanical reinforcement of the windings as very few machines were seen to have failed due to either dielectric strength deterioration or internally generated thermal damage. In all cases, care was taken to not affect the electrical circuitry or the size of the conductors. While small changes might appear in the performance of the machine, those would only be related to small increases in the dielectric materials. This is a normal approach during the remanufacturing process. For the random wound generators, the most critical change was in the conductor insulation where the thickness of the strand insulation was increased to improve turn to turn short time voltage resistance. This had the added benefit of improving slot fill. Additional materials were also added to tighten the coils in the slot. In some cases, the evolutes
Figure 9 – Remanufactured stator core
The other area which experiences a high premature failure rate is the loss of magnet wedges (Fig. 6). The root cause of these failures is still in question, but the reinforcement of the wedges during remanufacturing is critical. Once loosened in the slot, the magnetic wedges (typically >70% ferrite filled) will react to the rotating magnetic fields and will either become completely dislodged or pulverized. In
a few cases, the wedge has actually penetrated the coil package, creating a fairly spectacular catastrophic failure that, although contained within the generator, resulted in a severely damaged core. By using pre-insulated coils with mica/glass insulation and woven armor tapes, designing the coils and phase materials to fit very tightly in the slot, and by using short sections of magnetic wedges to ease the insertion force, it is possible to make a very tight slot fill with little movement. Again, impregnation with a thixotropic, high bond resin greatly improves retention in the slot and affords good adhesion to the magnet wedge. III. CONCLUSION Although the actual failure rate of wind turbine generators is small compared the size of the fleet (it can be estimated to be somewhat less that 3% per year), it is a significant risk to the operators of wind farms and extending the life of the equipment by reducing known common failures is the goal of quality remanufacturing. By utilizing proven materials, systems and processes developed for existing heavy industry applications, it is hoped that these failed machines will only be re-built once during their projected life. Additionally, the implementation of solid predictive maintenance techniques can also improve long term reliability. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The author extends their thanks to Dr. George Gao, William Chen, G. Harold Miller, Chuck Wilson and Donald Mattice for their opinions and general contributions to this review. REFERENCES
 Distribution of failed subassemblies in electric motors and wind turbine generators compared with a summary. Unpublished raw data used by permission, Tavner, P.J. 2011 Wind Turbine Generator Failure Modes Analysis and Occurrence, Kevin Alewine and William Chen, AWEA Windpower 2010 A Review of Electrical Winding Failures in Wind Turbine Generators, Kevin Alewine and William Chen, IEEE EIC 2011 Design Challenges of Wind Turbine Generators, George Gao and William Chen, IEEE EIC 2009 Root Cause Failure Analysis, Electrical Apparatus Service Association, 2002-2004
   
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