innogy – the name stands for innovation and energy, but people are the real linchpins of innovation. The more committed they are, the more innovative they tend to be and student trainee Alexander Friedrich is a prime example of that. He designed and 3-D printed an object that can be used to gauge whether wind turbines are positioned correctly to catch the wind and thus generate energy efficiently.
His printed object actually looks rather unspectacular. With its thread on the inside, the grey plug is reminiscent of a wine cork that has already had an opener screwed into it. But in reality it is a key component of an innogy research and development project designed to detect incorrectly aligned wind turbines.
It frequently happens that turbines are not ideally aligned to the prevailing wind. That reduces their efficiency, so they generate less electricity than they could or should be producing. One way of identifying suboptimal positioning is to evaluate the operating data of the turbines. That process repeatedly showed that the data quality of the sensors measuring the position of the turbines was suboptimal.
Now additional sensors are being used to review the existing technology. “We needed a customised connecting piece to install the sensors, but production of connectors can be an expensive and time-consuming process, depending on the way they are manufactured. So Alexander’s 3D printer and his expertise in designing objects came in very handy for us”, says Stefan Heindl, the innogy Onshore Wind employee responsible for evaluating the operating data. The control sensor has so far been installed in two turbines at the Bartelsdorf wind farm in the Lower Saxony district of Rotenburg, where each of them now has four weeks of readings that are about to undergo further evaluation.