An ideal condition monitoring package keeps an eye on how each turbine is performing so maintenance crews can plan their work. A next development step would be to run the machines to minimize maintenance and then run the whole wind farm for maximum annual energy production.
A Boston based IoT startup says it’s aiming for that and more. Mohit Dua, Founder and CEO of WindESCo, says the company offers to combine sensing and analytics along with a subscription-based model that together increases wind farm output and improves major component reliability.
“While actions by the industry have led to a reduction in component failure rates, owners are looking for a step change,” says Dua. He founded WindESCo in 2014 based on eight years of experience working at an independent power producer. “I could not find a solution, independent of OEMs, that offered a comprehensive performance optimization platform. A few small, European vendors offered services only to address one aspect of optimization.”
None, however, offered both increased energy output and improved reliability for major components. “My goal was to bring the two together. The company was born out of a vision to offer wind-farm owners a solution that would decrease the monetary loss suffered during operation and increase revenues. Our focus has been on a scalable, integrated, comprehensive and cost-effective solution that can work with U.S. power prices,” he adds.
Dua says WindESCo works to improve wind farms by:
• Increasing the annual energy production (AEP). “We provide this through a package called WeBoost. On previous projects, we have shown AEP increases from 2 to 4%. With additional features, we expect to take this up to 6%.”
• Reducing major component failures. “We are particularly focused on gearboxes, main bearings, and blades. They are monitored through a package called WeProtect.”
• Increasing component lifetime, and
• Providing real time feedback for end-to-end improvements.
Conventional condition monitoring systems (CMS) mostly look at drivetrain vibration data and flag trends which could indicate an impending component failure. But Dua says this doesn’t really address the cause leading to failure.
While there are many causes for major component failures, one of the most overlooked aspects is the wind conditions themselves. “We have measured low frequency, high-impact loads on all projects where our system has been deployed. During these events, loading on the turbine exceeded its design limit by many times and these loads have the potential to initiate cracks. We monitor loads using a proprietary system, WeSense, co-developed with Phoenix Contact over the last two years.” says Dua.
He adds that the company recently released another module, WeEdge, an edge computing system which functions securely within the wind farm firewall. Due to network latency and bandwidth issues added to cyber security concerns, the company decided to move its computation engine to the client wind farm. Its decentralized architecture allows for independence from the cloud for real-time operation.
Installed at the wind farm, the edge computing system combines data from the load monitoring sensors, SCADA system, and CMS. “We are also integrated with the wind park controller to provide real time feedback to mitigate the effects of damaging winds. The edge-computing system lets us react instantaneously using a patent-pending method and facilitate turbine-to-turbine communication, a service that will be a game changer for the industry,” he says.
“Whenever bandwidth frees up on the wind farm, WeEdge compresses the data gathered and sends it to the Cloud. A cloud-based analytics platform makes further recommendations for turbine and wind-farm optimization.” Dua says this collective system protects equipment rather than predicts events, a step up from traditional CMS.
He says the company is getting interest from a variety of owners despite his team’s the limited outreach. “The best candidates are projects that are seeing high component failure rates. These are often located in complex topography such as on mesa tops, steep mountains, and forested areas with tall trees. Some projects have a high failure due to atmospheric effects that lead to complex wind conditions. Our system is configurable and has the ability to address a variety of scenarios that can lead to component failure.”
In addition, the company’s data-driven approach to optimization says Dua, can deliver immediate value through AEP improvement. Systems are now on seven projects and the company is on course to add five more in North America by the year’s end.