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Exploring the Causes of Power-Converter Failure in Wind Turbines based on Comprehensive Field-Data and Damage Analysis

: Fischer, Katharina; Pelka, Karoline; Puls, Sebastian; Poech, Max-Hermann; Mertens, Axel; Bartschat, Arne; Tegtmeier, Bernd; Broer, Christian; Wenske, Jan

Fulltext (PDF; )

Energies 12 (2019), No.4, Art. 593, 27 pp.
ISSN: 1996-1073
Bundesministerium fur Wirtschaft und Energie BMWi (Deutschland)
0324219B; HiPEWind
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IWES ()
Fraunhofer ISIT ()
reliability; Power electronic; power converter; wind power; root-cause analysis; post-mortem analysis; field data

Power converters are among the most frequently failing components of wind turbines. Despite their massive economic impact, the actual causes and mechanisms underlying these failures have remained in the dark for many years. In view of this situation, a large consortium of three research institutes and 16 companies, including wind-turbine and component manufacturers, operators and maintenance-service providers has joined forces to identify the main causes and driving factors of the power-converter failures in wind turbines to create a basis for effective remedial measures. The present paper summarizes and discusses the results of this research initiative, which have been achieved through the evaluation of converter-specific failure and operating data of a large and diverse worldwide wind-turbine fleet, field measurements as well as post-mortem investigation of returned converter components. A key conclusion of the work is that the thermal-cycling induced fatigue of bond-chip contacts and die-attach solder, which is a known issue in other fields of power-electronics applications and which has been widely assumed to be the principle damage mechanisms also in wind turbines, is no relevant contributor to the observed converter failures in this application. Instead, the results indicate that environmental factors such as humidity and contamination but also design and quality issues as well as human errors play an important part in the incidence of these failures.