Extended climatic durability testing on power electronics for the renewable industry

Sirris, the Belgian technology centre, is housing one of the largest climatic test chambers in Europe. The test lab is used for research, test and validation projects of different electro-mechanical systems that need to work in harsh and extreme climatic environments. The new built facility was opened in 2012 and in the beginning of its operations mainly used by its OWI-Lab department to functionally test large multi-MW components for wind turbines (e.g. gearboxes, transformers, power converters, hydraulic components, etc…). Also off-highway, mining, agricultural and defence companies benefit from the state-of-the-art climatic test lab.

Last year the lab was also used to test power electronics (inverters) for the solar power market, as also this renewable energy power source needs to work in a reliable and safe way during its lifetime for all climates worldwide.  

A focus competence in the past within the laboratory has been cold start-up performance, and cold climate compliance testing. As also tropical and desert (i.g. dry-heat) situations pose engineering challenges to certain equipment (mainly power electronics and cooling systems), the lab is also looking into a broader scope of climatic tests than the extreme cold and icing environments. In order to meet  compliance with such test requirements, a special coating was installed inside the climate chamber and additional features to cope with a humidity test range from 8% to 95% have been implemented. Also a 950W/m² solar heat array was purchased.     

Due to the size of the test chamber, it’s range of test temperatures and cycle programming ability, the new humidity test capabilities, and the ability to provide high power for functional testing of multi-MW power converters, the test laboratory is ideal for testing multi-MW power electronics for the renewable energy business like wind power, solar energy plans and wave & tidal applications.  

Reliable power electronics in deserts and the arctic cold

Renewable energy sources like wind power and solar energy are taking a larger part of the energy mix. More and more such energy sources are installed in remote locations in which they need to operate in harsh climatic conditions. Renewable energy sources are installed worldwide, meaning they need to cope with the desert heat of the middle-east and with the arctic cold in the Northern part of America for example. All involved electro-mechanical machinery needs to be designed for these environments as some of these locations are much harder to reach for operations and maintenance purpose than we are used in a moderate climate. Inverter and power converter manufacturers therefore put their prototypes first to the test in the laboratory in order to ensure safe and reliable operations in all climatic conditions. 

Extended testing possibilities for manufacturers in varying extreme climates in a full power configuration

“By placing one power inverter in the climatic test chamber and another one outside we were able to construct a closed loop ‘back-to-back’ test set-up of 1MW which we can extend up to more than 6MW if needed. This way we could test the specimen on full power and only supply the losses in the circuit” says Pieter Jan Jordaens, business developer for the climatic test facility. Our test team analysed the standards and needed equipment to dimension the electric power needed as well as the humidifier and drying unit for this full scope environmental test campaign.

Bastiaan Reymer, test engineer quotes on the test campaign: “The tests on the system were preformed continuously 24/7 for some days. By controlling the climate chamber with programmable software the temperature and humidity can be varied with great precision to create extreme environment cycles compliant with the IEC standards.” The climatic test laboratory performed all climatic environments according: 

IEC-60068-2-1 Environmental Test- Cold

IEC-60068-2-2 Environmental Test- Dry Heat

IEC-60068-2-14 Environmental Test- Change of Temperature

IEC-60068-2-30 Environmental Test- Damp heat Cyclic (humidity testing)

More information:

http://www.owi-lab.be/content/climate-chamber-testing

http://www.sirris.be/largest-climatic-test-chamber-in-europe

pieterjan.jordaens@sirris.be +32 491 34 53 82  [Business developer]

Bastiaan.reymer@sirris.be +32 493 31 06 31  [Test engineer]