Comparison of electrical collection topologies for multi-rotor wind turbines

Pirrie, Paul and Campos-Gaona, David and Anaya-Lara, Olimpo (2020) Comparison of electrical collection topologies for multi-rotor wind turbines. Wind Energy Science, 5 (4). pp. 1237-1252. ISSN 2366-7451 (

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Multi-rotor wind turbines (MRWTs) have been suggested in the literature as a solution to achieving wind turbine systems with capacities greater than 10 MW. MRWTs utilize a large number of small rotors connected to one support structure instead of one large rotor with the aim of circumventing the square cube law. Potential benefits of MRWTs include cost and material savings, standardization of parts, increased control possibilities, and improved logistics for assembly and maintenance. Almost all previous work has focused on mechanical and aerodynamic feasibility, with almost no attention being paid to the electrical systems. In this research eight different topologies of the electrical collection network for MRWTs are analysed to assess which are the most economically and practically viable options. AC and DC collection networks are presented in radial, star, cluster and DC series topologies. Mass, capital cost and losses are estimated based on scaling relationships from the academic literature and up-to-date commercial data. The focus of this study is the assessment of the type of electrical collector topology, so component type and voltage level are kept consistent between topology designs in order to facilitate a fair comparison. Topologies are compared in terms of four main criteria: capital cost, cost effectiveness, total mass and reliability. A comparison table is presented to summarize the findings of the research in a convenient way. It is found that the most cost-effective solutions are the AC radial and AC star topologies, with the least cost-effective being the DC series-parallel and DC cluster topologies. This is due to the high cost of DC-DC converters and DC switchgear along with the lower efficiency of DC converters. Radial designs perform best in terms of efficiency and annual energy capture. DC systems achieve a slightly lower nacelle mass compared to their equivalent AC systems. DC topologies are generally found to be more expensive when compared to their AC counterparts due to the high cost of DC-DC converters and DC switchgear. Star topologies are considered to have the best reliability due to having no shared equipment. The most suitable collection topology for MRWTs is shown to be of the star type, in which each turbine is connected to the step-up transformer via its own cable.