Wind energy is clean and renewable. It can be generated locally, either onshore or offshore, thus helping to decrease the need for energy imports from abroad and increasing energy security. Technological developments enable manufacturers to optimize the design and production of wind turbines and increase the production capacity of wind parks. Digitalization and automation play a key role in improving operational efficiency, enhancing safety (e.g. by reducing the need for manual maintenance in hard to access locations), and reducing costs through greater precision in manufacturing and assembly as well as system monitoring to avoid unplanned downtimes.
TTTech Industrial has been active in the sector for more than a decade as a supplier to Vestas, one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world. New use cases and services in the industry, like predictive maintenance applications and system monitoring capabilities can be supported by edge computing technology. TTTech Industrial’s IIoT solution Nerve can support wind turbine manufacturers and wind energy companies to collect, process, and analyze the data required for these applications.
- WindEurope: WindEnergy today
- Find out how wind turbines work: US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy | WindEurope
Scalable control systems for wind turbines
Vestas is a pioneer in the wind energy sector and one of the leading manufacturers of wind turbines in the world. So far, Vestas has installed onshore and offshore wind turbines in 87 countries providing more than 144 GW of wind power.
About a decade ago, Vestas was looking for a solution to simplify the internal control systems in their turbines and approached TTTech Industrial for the development of a scalable distributed control system (DCS).
A DCS enables the secure and reliable connection of all systems within the wind turbine. These may include safety and non-safety functions. Safety functions are responsible for secure control and efficient operation and thus also for the safety of personnel and residents. Non-safety functions, on the other hand, are related to the data collected (e.g. weather, wind and load data). This type of data is used by wind park management to analyze and optimize systems and processes.
The DCS uses a central computer (serving as the ‘brain’) that sends information to a ‘nervous system’ of sensors, controllers and computers in the wind turbine. These systems process the data received and derive actions from them.
A simple example: imagine an increase in wind speed and a change in the wind’s direction. In this case, it is important to ensure that the rotor blades can catch the wind in the right way for maximum efficiency and without being damaged. The central computer in the DCS therefore sends out the information that the rotor blades need to be turned by a specific degree and the sensors on the rotor blades receive and process the information and carry out the necessary operation (i.e. rotation of the rotor blades).
TTTech Industrial’s DCS makes use of Deterministic Ethernet for the control and networking technology in the wind turbine. It allows safety-critical data from different controls to be transmitted via a single network cable, with optimum use of available bandwidth. This simplifies maintenance of the system and reduces the amount of cabling necessary.
With TTTech Industrial’s DCS, Vestas optimized their development and is now able to reuse more than 70% of the turbine architecture when developing new turbine models. The DCS also supports Vestas in increasing availability and energy output and provides more control over critical situations in the wind turbine’s safety area, responsible for reliable functioning and safe operation (e.g. sudden gusts of wind that require rotor blades to be rotated or turned off for safety).
Since 2016, TTTech Industrial’s DCS has been integrated into more than 10,000 Vestas wind turbines worldwide that are supplying around 33 million households with energy.
- Vestas case study
- TTTech Industrial’s distributed control system integrated in world’s first 15 MW wind turbine built by Vestas
- Austrian technology increases efficiency of wind turbines (German)
Edge computing for secure data access and new (remote) services
Wind parks today need to increase their efficiency both in terms of production processes and output. Availability is key for guaranteeing secure energy supply, so predictive maintenance is becoming an increasingly important topic for the sector, while at the same time more digitalization and automation of systems makes data and application handling more complex.
Optimization of processes, as well as the scalability and reproducibility of plant models rely on constant real-time data processing and analyses. Making sure that the collected data can be handled in real-time, i.e. immediately after its collection, requires processing close to the source of the data. This is where edge computing comes in. Edge computing platforms provide open data interfaces to multiple data sources, scalability thanks to a central management platform, and flexible edge hosting for applications in a secure architecture.
There is currently a lot of potential for introducing IoT business models to the wind energy market (in particular edge computing solutions) to address some of the market’s pain points:
- Collect machine data at the machine and save selected data in the cloud to optimize system configuration and reduce cost
- Establish secure remote access to machines across the world to simplify maintenance
- Get a complete overview over system status, user behavior and efficiency
- Flexible data connection to the wind park operators‘ SCADA systems
- Remote maintenance and services
Nerve is an industrial edge computing platform that enables IIoT connectivity across wind parks from the sensor on individual wind turbines to the data center and the cloud. It also allows to centrally manage and host or virtualize applications at the edge (e.g. predictive apps at the machines). Wind park operators and wind turbine manufacturers can use Nerve for secure data communication to:
- Capture, filter, and compress data at the source (edge) from SCADA, CMS, dedicated I/Os
- Process data locally (at the edge) and filter for high-frequency signals e.g. vibration, audio noise
- Transfer data in real-time and/or for batch transfers to deploy software updates to different devices in the wind turbine
This ensures that system software and devices can be kept up-to-date, adapted quickly to different operational scenarios (e.g. new sensor types) and changes in weather and external condition. Nerve also allows setting different levels of access for personnel, to account for customers’ service level agreements (SLAs) and security requirements.
We know that each customer and each use case is unique – that is why Nerve is an open, modular solution that can be adapted to our customers’ business needs. To find out what we can do for you, please reach out to our sales team.
Nerve is an open IIoT solution that connects wind turbines and wind parks worldwide via a central management system