Plug connectors increase the value of wind energy investments

The value of a wind turbine (WT) is not only measured by the investments into machines and site development, but also in the way it is used later. In the long run, components which simplify installation and maintenance can improve the value of the plant enormously. If a wind turbine manufacturer uses pluggable connectors for the electrical connections between plant modules, this can lower both the investment costs (CAPEX) and the operational costs (OPEX).

A good example of a regularly replaced component on a WT is the slip ring – the interface between the stationary nacelle and rotating hub. The slip ring is used to transmit the signals for the pitch systems that determine the angle of incidence of the rotor blades. This interface can have a pluggable design: HARTING’s solution uses Han-Modular® inserts and the Han-Modular® hinged frame.

Slip-ring connection at a wind turbine
Slip-ring connection at a wind turbine

The plug solution offers many advantages over permanently attached wiring. The slip ring can be replaced more quickly, thereby reducing downtimes.

During maintenance in the service workshop, the slip ring can be replaced without intervention in the pitch system and without dismantling the connecting cables. The service fitters in the nacelle do not require special tools. This reduces costs for maintenance and repair.

There are good cost-saving opportunities associated with using plug connectors for the initial investments as well as the installation costs. Power cabinets in the WT are still mostly hardwired. They are hardwired and tested during assembly in the factory, then the connections are disconnected and restored at the system level in order to repeat the process after a further disconnection in the field.

HARTING has a wide range of plug connectors with a pluggable design for power cabinets or interior sections. The Han® B, Han® Eco, Han-Com®, Han® E and Han-Modular® series are used for this.

Han® plug connectors series

Han-Modular®

 

  • The market standard for modular industrial connectors

  • All-purpose use for data, signal and power

Han-Modular®

Han® B

  • Many variations: for precise industrial applications

  • A proven hoods/housings made of powder-coated die-cast aluminium

  • Locking levers: Han-Easy Lock®

  • IP67

Han_B

Han-Eco®

  • Particularly robust for industrial applications
  • Resistance to corrosion and ozone: for outdoor use

  • Han-Eco® "click and mate" assembly concept
  • IP65

Han_Eco_Gehäuse

Han-Com®

  • Combination of signal and power in one insulation body

  • Available in multiple termination techniques

  • Usage of Han® C, Han D®, Han E® and FO contacts

Han-Com

Han E®

  • All-purpose use
  • Available in multiple termination techniques

  • 500 V / 16 A

Han E®

The use of pluggable connectors speeds up the installation process and increases the modularity of the WT. The pluggable connectors also open up options for the modularisation of the power cabinets.

The value of pluggable connections for installing and operating a WT can be illustrated with numerous other application examples.

Infographic Levelized costs of electricity

The adjacent diagram shows the areas in which plug connectors simplify and thereby enable savings in installation/investment (CAPEX) and operations (OPEX). It is worth highlighting that significant savings can be made using plug connectors even in the investment phase, with assembly and installation in the field. 

This reduces the costs for installation of wind parks by shortening assembly processes. Plug connectors help any installation fitter who must attach components at inaccessible angles in the nacelle and tower.

In the long run, an evaluation of costs incurred for capital goods in a WT cannot avoid the use of pluggable connectors. The initial costs for these connectors, which incur less than 0.5% of the total investment, will already be amortised after just a few maintenance processes.

Apart from this, the installation logistics would quickly reach their limits at current conventional plant sizes (onshore average: 3.3 MW) without a modular design that uses plug connectors.

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