The growing demand for alternative energy sources and increased investment in this area encourage the rapid development of the wind power industry. It is not only the number of newly built installations that gets higher – we are also observing technological progress in the case of wind farms. One of the solutions contributing most to such growth are SCADA systems, already known in other manufacturing sectors. Their widespread use in the wind power industry brings about significant improvement in the energy production process, at the same time allowing reduction of the costs associated with equipment servicing.
Wind as a source of positive change
The climate crisis and increasing environmental concerns, depleting coal reserves as well as rising oil and gas prices in the longer term are factors that have turned the world’s attention to renewable energy sources in recent decades. Among them is wind energy, which has gained wide recognition and great popularity. One of the world’s leaders and precursors of using wind energy on a large scale is Denmark, which obtained 47% of its energy from this source in 2019. Also, on December 27, 2020, the share of coal in electricity production in Poland for the first time fell below 50%. This is connected, among others, with the highest production of wind farms in history. According to the Global Wind Report, in 2019, wind energy accounted for 15% of the total electricity demand in the EU countries. Scientists expect this trend to grow steadily in the next 5 years.
New quality in wind power plants
SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is an information system whose task is primarily to monitor the production process and increase production efficiency by collecting and analyzing data from production equipment. It is located between control, measurement and execution devices (such as PLC controllers, I/O modules, sensors and counters) and the operator of the machine, the entire production line or even the entire factory or group of factories. The SCADA system allows not only data collection and visualization, but also process control and alarming.
In the case of wind power plants, the main benefit of using SCADA systems is a significant reduction in equipment maintenance costs. Thanks to the function allowing the detection of errors and malfunctions in the operation of wind turbines, and often even symptoms of future malfunctions, it is possible to quickly reach a given element and repair or replace it, which minimizes downtime. In the case of hard-to-reach or faraway power plants, e.g. in the Baltic Sea, the option of identifying malfunction symptoms remotely is a significant reduction in the costs associated with the arrival and work of service personnel. By analyzing data on turbine operations, environmental conditions and malfunctions, it is possible to take preventive measures, extending the lifespan of turbines.
The second major benefit of SCADA systems is the possibility of using the obtained data in the process of forecasting and optimizing production. As a result of diurnal variations, the production of energy from renewable sources, especially wind and solar energy, changes considerably. On the other hand, only limited storage capacity for the electricity generated is still available. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to make supply and demand as equal as possible – especially in the context of the reform of the Balancing Market, coming into force at the beginning of 2021. As its result, poorly controlled wind farms, for which imbalance between the energy produced and supplied to the Public Power System equals additional operating costs, are also becoming market participants. The combination of SCADA systems and advanced analytical tools allows, among others, programming the settings of wind turbine blades based on the weather forecast to adjust their operation to the wind speed and direction, which results in production level optimization.
Sii competences recognized in Denmark
In July 2020, a leading Danish wind turbine manufacturer chose Sii Poland as an integrator of solutions using the SCADA system.
– In the project, we are responsible for configuring and calibrating PLC controllers and all other control devices located in the wind turbine and creating a standardized communication channel (OPC standard), through which data is sent to SCADA in real-time. The operator, using the visualization prepared by us, has access to key data from the energy production process. He or she can adjust turbine settings or make a decision about required servicing – says Szymon Woźnica, Business Development Manager at Sii Poland Engineering Competency Center.
One of the most interesting challenges that Sii consultants face today is the integration of information directly from the “production line” (collected through SCADA) with data from the outside, including economic data, e.g. forecasted demand for electricity or the price of 1 kW of energy, and weather data such as wind speed and direction, incoming weather fronts and many others
– Thanks to the ability and practice of combining the experience of the Engineering Competency Center with the knowledge of other Sii Competency Centers (e.g. Business Intelligence), we can support our clients in the implementation of comprehensive tools enabling wind energy production in an even more efficient way – says Piotr Żukowski, Head of Public & Utilities Industry at Sii Poland.
Comprehensive solution for the public utilities sector
As a reliable partner of companies from the public utilities sector, Sii Poland carries out a wide range of projects, including the implementation, maintenance and development of monitoring and production support systems. Our experts have experience in implementing SCADA systems, as well as creating dedicated software that works with production control systems. We build SCADA systems from scratch, program and customize sensors and PLC controllers and integrate them with other systems, at the same time being ready to support the construction of wind farms, even at sea.
Sii engineers are implementing projects for two of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers, concerning the integration of sensors with the SCADA system, data analytics and building internal platforms based on Microsoft 365.