Testing times: bringing next-gen tech to life

When it comes to successful innovation, the importance of testing can’t be overstated. GE Power Conversion's Sascha Heinecke explores.

Testing is crucial to innovation. While new ideas are born every day, not all can successfully make their way into the field. Key to understanding which ideas are economically viable is R&D test systems, and never has this been more crucial than in manufacturing.

Through using the test system, manufacturers can tailor products to specific performance requirements before installation and commissioning, helping to enhance performance in the field. They can also help to prove R&D and deliver lifecycle results, which are invaluable for developing new innovations.

A computer generated image of the hydroelectric batteries combined with wind turbines. Image courtesy of GE Renewable Energy.
It takes time to accumulate knowledge, experience and insight into how to set up the most efficient and lasting test systems – image courtesy of GE Renewable Energy.

Without test systems, manufacturers cannot ensure the quality and lifespan of products, nor can they understand the limitations of the components.

When you consider, on average, that a wind turbine can cost more than 5% of the initial investment (excluding the cost caused by loss of production) or that a single equipment failure may shut down an entire power plant and cause a city-wide black out, safeguarding such investments is crucial.

By testing products at the research and development phase, as well as re-testing before product delivery – so called end-of-line testing, operators can significantly reduce the probability of running into problems out in the field. This practice helps accelerate the development cycle, improve productivity and cost efficiencies and plays a crucial role in bringing the next generation of technology to life.

Much like the power generation industry, test requirements are changing as technology evolves. In the past, test systems were mechanical, but today, an electrical approach is favored because it results in higher performance and quality of testing due to the wider scope of testing scenarios it allows. With this in mind, manufacturers should seek out the companies with vast electrical and mechanical expertise that can act as trusted partners in testing products and innovations.

GE's Little Raith Wind Farm in Fife, Scotland - Testing
By thoroughly testing all components and products in the development cycle, operators can create robust structures that support power generation globally.

GE’s testing solutions

It takes time to accumulate knowledge, experience and insight into how to set up the most efficient and lasting test systems. Having been in the test industry for more than 30 years, GE provides turnkey projects and takes care of the full lifecycle of the benches. Today, it has more than 2,500 test-benches installed globally across various industries, including marine; renewables; automotive; power generation, and oil & gas.

At the heart of its practice is leveraging GE’s Power Conversion’s extensive electric engineering experience to provide a qualified test system with an optimised variable and flexible turnkey approach.

GE also closely collaborates with customers throughout the lifecycle of a test system and avoids a one-size-fits-all approach: each test system is designed to be bespoke and is best suited to test the specific product. This is key, since a test system must be reassembled on demand to adapt to the requirements and environments for testing new equipment.

As such, a good test system must be broad in scope, flexible and variable while allowing the customer to tailor performance of product, providing space to imagine and create the next generation of innovation.

GE’s test systems solutions are also highly robust, capable of sustaining thousands of hours of mechanical and electrical stress. By simulating the extreme environment conditions or worse-case scenario, it will push the boundaries of the new equipment to the highest standard of reliability.

By thoroughly testing all components and products in the development cycle, operators can create robust structures that support power generation globally. In fact, to maintain our way of life and the economic development of our society, we require access to sustainable and affordable energy, and this is why test system solutions for all significant industries remain important.