Exclusive Speaker Interview with Carsten Westergaard, Sandia National Laboratories Wind Energy Department

Carsten WestergaardIn the lead up to the Wind Operator Congress North America, taking place this September in Chicago, we spoke with Carsten Westergaard, Professor of Practice, Texas Tech University to get some more insights about the wind power operations industry.


What do you see as the biggest opportunity for wind power operators to increase productivity of assets without excessive capex?

I think that operators have become very professional and have a strong handle on availability. I think the next logical step is automatic detection of underperformance, systematic detection of issues from A to Z, systematic reporting and systematic planning of corrective actions. However, as always true, the big improvements will be found in upgrades which increases power performance directly. Vortex generators was pioneered in the mid 1990ies and demonstrated on the turbines like the Elkraft 1MW test turbine near Copenhagen and is today a mainstream upgrade boosting asset performance. Methods to defeat leading edge erosion is extremely important to aerodynamic performance and upgrades of older underperforming controls systems are amongst the newer possibilities.

To what extent is the post-warranty period an opportunity for wind operations owners, and to what extent does it pose a challenge, why?

Historically, post warranty has been a challenge because the OEMs – at large – have operated isolated in the warranty period making the transition immensely difficult. I think the opportunity is to take charge throughout the lifecycle of the windfarm and get involved in the planning and birth of a new generation turbines. The technical lessons from operations must be used to improve and specify new products that are optimal in the individual locations. Only an intimate dialogue between the suppliers, OEMs, ISPs, repair shops etc., can change this and yield better performing sup-components throughout their life. The questions is if the current market structure allows for such dialogue in a fully constructive manner ?

What technological development or innovation do you believe promises to bring greatest benefit to wind power operations and why?

1) Lidar has now become so cheap that there is no excuse not to take advantage of these much better measurement technologies. It can be used for remote siting, or nacelle mounted operational tuning or directly linked to optimal controls systems. 2) Bigger rotors, either from birth or through post-warranty extensions is more important than ever. Both requires innovations with each their challenges. 3) Wake management to optimize wind farm performance. The DOE/Sandia SWiFT facility co-located with Texas Tech University is geared towards this type of research. Finally, 4) Intelligent Big data and advanced physics based data mining is key to better understand and document achievements in all areas. We have at Sandia National Laboratories recently identified new SCADA data analysis methods which can both document wake losses and related to reliability performance; and, thus, be used for future asset optimization.   

How will the wind power industry in 10 years differ to that of today?

I will quote a good friend from the oil industry: “the wind industry reminds me of the oil industry 40 years ago”, said with a gentle smile and the ambition of changing the industry standards to be more collaborative and homogeneous.
One thing which will drive the change in the industry is that the structure around deals will change, simply because there will be more tier one OEMs in the supply chain to choose from in the future. Especially the Asian suppliers will adapt their products to their overseas market and meet the requirements to be tier one.
Although I have been in the industry for almost 25 years, I still hope the US market eventually will be more stable and less political driven. Wind provides fantastic regional growth opportunities and a stable market would focus all players across the value chain to facilitate steady growth.     

Lastly, what’s your one top tip for a wind power operator?

Be less risk adverse and experiment more. Enable you organization to grow technically and to embrace new innovations. In part, do that by getting involved with research and workforce development at the higher learning institutions. The US is at least decade behind Europe when it comes to collaboration with academia and subsequent advanced workforce development.


If you would like to find out more insights from Carsten Westergaard about the future of wind power operations, visit the Wind Operator Congress North America, 21-23 September in Chicago. http://windoperatorcongress.com 


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