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Wind turbines are going digital

ABB is bringing digital technology to wind turbines with ABB Ability™ remote support services for wind farm operators.  This increases turbine uptime, lowers operation and maintenance (O&M) costs and reduces the cost of producing energy. 

Clean power

Clean, renewable wind power continues to grow as countries seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In 2017, installed wind power capacity had grown to more than 539.5 GW, with more than 80 countries using wind power to supply their electricity grids, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

Wind parks are often located in mountainous regions or offshore to capture the most favorable wind conditions. Because reaching these sites is difficult, remote support services based on digital technology can play an important role in maintaining turbine uptime and availability.

From the turbine to the cloud

ABB is a major manufacturer of generators, frequency converters and transformers for wind turbines, and has supplied converters for more than 16,000 turbines worldwide. The generator, converter and transformer form the turbine’s electrical drivetrain, and ABB - working with customers - is now leading the digital transformation of this drivetrain.

Digitalization enables data to be acquired from the converter’s control system, with sampling at millisecond intervals, as well as from sensors mounted on the generator and transformer. The data are transmitted via the Internet to a secure cloud platform, where they are stored and processed in real time using smart algorithms and analytics.

These analytics perform diagnostics on the electrical drivetrain. Key performance indicators are continuously monitored, providing the wind park operator with visibility of the generator, converter and transformer. Analysis of the acquired data also forms the basis for ABB’s new remote support services. ABB AbilityTM Condition Monitoring with data visualization is already available and has been deployed by a leading wind power asset owner. 

Further services - remote assistance and predictive maintenance - harness the combination of cloud computing, machine learning and ABB’s know-how to enable highly targeted maintenance actions before any problems can occur. This gives operators better availability, longer process uptime, and peace of mind.

Proactive operations and maintenance

Using the new remote services, wind park operators can switch from corrective and preventive maintenance programs to proactive O&M strategies. This will deliver savings in maintenance, crane ships and man-hours, and increase turbine uptime. Lower costs will help reduce the wind parks’ levelized cost of energy (LCOE) - a measure that enables the value of different electricity generation resources to be compared.

Better turbine uptime will become extremely important in future. Higher turbine ratings, particularly offshore, will mean that wind parks will use fewer turbines to generate the same amount of energy. Reliability and availability of these big turbines are essential – unscheduled downtime in a turbine will have a significant impact on power generation, revenue and profitability. Furthermore, the giant turbines will be installed far offshore, making O&M extremely challenging and expensive. By enabling condition based maintenance and greater predictability, digitalization can help to increase energy yield and reduce costs. 

Here is an example of how the ABB Ability services work. If the algorithms in the cloud platform detect that a turbine is developing a defect, the operator can take action to protect the turbine and the wind park’s output. They can activate power prioritization mode and the defective turbine is operated in a reduced run mode. This helps to avoid excessive stress and accelerated component wear. At the same time, the wind park can balance active and reactive power to continue stable operation. It will continue to meet grid code requirements and generate revenue, while maintenance is planned to remedy the defective turbine with minimum downtime and maximum safety.

The digital electrical drivetrain and ABB Ability remote support services will help wind parks to boost annual energy production and reduce production costs. This will make wind power more competitive against fossil fuels, leading to an increase in the share of energy produced in a clean, sustainable way.

For additional information, please contact Jari-Pekka Matsinen jari-pekka.matsinen@fi.abb.com  

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