IECRE certification ensures safe renewable energy equipment

Wind turbines harness the power of wind and convert it into electricity. They are complex machines comprising many components.

Wind farm in Navarra, Spain

Different aspects must be considered when choosing all the materials of the assembly, such as strength, dynamic behaviour and fatigue properties.

Manufacturers must ensure their turbines can endure extreme winds. They must also be able to handle fatigue loads, since fluctuating winds and forces can bend blades. Additionally, tall wind turbines sway back and forth and parts such as the blades may also vibrate. One way to do this is through certification.

IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications, offers third-party certification of wind energy equipment and services to consensus-based international standards. This ensures safety and reliability which reduces risks, streamlines costs and enhances market access. IECRE also covers solar photovoltaic (PV) and marine energy equipment.

e-tech talked with Daniel Aranguren, who is a Peer Assessor for the IECRE System, to find out more about the certification process. Aranguren is an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain, (CENER) and conducts blade assessments in the Wind Turbine Test Laboratory (LEA), according to IEC Standards.

What is the process for testing a blade?

IEC 61400-23, Full-scale structural testing of rotor blades, states that the blades of a wind turbine are one of the most critical components of the entire wind turbine generator system, and the main purpose of the tests is to verify that the whole population of a blade type fulfils the design assumptions.

To accomplish this task the blade must undergo a complete testing campaign, mainly comprised of:

  • Static load tests: assess the ability of the blade to withstand the most severe design load conditions. For this purpose, the load is applied at a low velocity in several sections of the blade until test loads are reached. Usually this test is performed for different load distributions or orientations, in order to represent the different extreme load cases.
  • Fatigue tests: assess the ability of the blade to withstand fatigue loads, that is to say, the objective is to apply cyclic loading to reproduce, in an accelerated way, the overall fatigue life of the structure.
  • Test for determining other blade properties, such as mass, centre of gravity (CoG) or vibration modes and the lightning protection system (LPS).

What are some of the challenges?

For most blade testing facilities, including our laboratory at CENER, blade length is becoming the major challenge. Blades are getting longer, and no one knows, or can anticipate, where the final limit will be. This poses huge technical challenges for testing laboratories, to construct new facilities which can meet manufacturers needs and try to foresee the future path of this industry. It’s a complex task to correctly size and, therefore, determine the investment to be made.            

What does an IECRE Peer Assessor do?

As Peer Assessor, I manage all technical aspects during the whole assessment process. My primary task is to make sure that the applicants meet the requirements defined in the IECRE rules.

My main task as a blade test engineer involves designing and performing structural tests on full-scale blades according to international standards. This means defining the technical specifications of the tests and the management and commissioning of measurement equipment and test tooling. Once the tests have been carried out, testing measured data is post-processed and used for the test report. This final product is delivered to the customer.

The process, once the assessment team (Lead and Technical Assessors) is formed, can be summarized as follows:

  • Set up an online meeting to clarify what the process will be and agree assessment date.
  • Before the onsite visit, the assessment team usually requests some documents for review in advance.
  • Carry out onsite visit – from one to three days.
  • Once onsite, hold introduction meeting: give an overview of the assessment process and hear presentation of the company to be assessed.
  • Assessors then visit the facilities accompanied by laboratory staff.
  • The assessment team splits into two and begins tasks. This is typically a collaborative job between the applicant and the assessor. For me, this is the most interesting part of the process. It offers all the people involved the opportunity to hold very useful discussions and it’s an invaluable chance to talk to colleagues doing the same job in other locations.
  • Once completed, the assessment team meets to discuss findings and a close out meeting with the applicant staff is carried out to provide outcomes.

Find out more about IECRE.

Aranguren is an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain, (CENER)
Daniel Aranguren, Peer Assessor for the IECRE System