Get full control of your wind turbines with a retrofit solution
As a wind farm owner or operator, you need to run the turbines as efficiently as possible to optimise energy yield and minimise costs. To reach this target, you need to address a variety of issues:
- You must select the optimal service and maintenance strategy by selecting the independent service provider (ISP) that best suits your requirements or handling service yourself, if you have qualified staff.
- You need to track performance data to carry out diagnostics and analyse issues, monitor performance, schedule service, and identify potential issues before they result in costly downtime.
- You need to optimise each turbine, for example by fine-tuning pitch and yaw rates – or by adding features such as LIDAR sensors or customised controller features that add value to your operation.
- You need to ensure compliance with current grid codes and take action to bring your turbines in line if the codes change. This will often be a matter of re-programming or upgrading the turbine controller, and if you neglect to do this, you could lose production time and revenue.
Addressing these issues, however, can be a challenge: Very often, the turbine manufacturer (OEM) enforces limitations on what you can do with your turbines. The OEM may, for example, control service and maintenance work by requiring the use of proprietary tools or technical documentation, and your warranty may be void if you attempt to service your turbines yourself. You may only have partial access to performance data, or no access at all. And many OEMs are not willing to carry out customisation or upgrade work on an older turbine.
There are several reasons why OEMs enforce such limitations. First, service and maintenance are good sources of revenue for OEMs. Second, OEMs are eager to protect their intellectual property including operational data and documentation. And once a turbine is a few years old, it may not make business sense for the OEM to keep supporting it.
Irrespective of the reason, the result is the same: You cannot take control of your service and maintenance strategy. You cannot track turbine performance data, or cannot do so in detail. You have limited options for optimising your turbine, and you risk a production shutdown if your existing turbine controllers do not comply with updated grid codes, and the OEM is unable or unwilling to help.
Retrofitting: a cost-effective solution
While the issues above can be resolved by investing in new turbines, this is a very expensive and cumbersome operation. Fortunately, a far more cost-effective option is available: retrofitting controllers and/or pitch systems on your turbines.
Third-party controller manufacturers may impose fewer access restrictions for software, data, and documentation. In addition, they are often more willing to discuss turbine customisation and upgrade work than the OEM, partnering with you to resolve the issues above:
- With full access to documentation, and no requirement for proprietary tools, you are free to select a service and maintenance strategy. Service technicians can often contact the manufacturer for additional help and support, if required.
- Third-party manufacturers often provide unlimited access to performance data; both SCADA data and high-speed data that allows detailed in-depth analysis. You can therefore carry out diagnostics, track performance in detail, schedule maintenance, and identify potential problems.
- You can partner with the manufacturer to customise controllers and turbines according to your specific needs. If a hardware or software add-on would add value to your operation, the retrofit partner can work with you on developing a solution that gives you improved performance or longer turbine service life for a fraction of the cost of a new turbine.
- Full software access and a manufacturer open to discussing controller modifications mean that if your local grid codes change, the controller can easily be brought in line with the updated requirements.
Prolonged service life and other additional benefits
Retrofitting a new controller or pitch system on the turbine brings additional benefits. First and foremost, it gives the turbine a new lease of life: Control electronics deteriorate over time, and replacing the original controller with a new one will prolong the service life of the turbine and may give you greater reliability because the new controller is less prone to breakdowns.
Given the rapid pace of technological development, upgrading turbine control systems will very likely give you benefits such as faster operation, improved data access or granularity, and improved remote monitoring and control options. New controller systems may also offer a better and more user-friendly interface that gives you added control of the turbines – locally or remotely.
Finally, of course, a retrofit controller or pitch system on your turbine may result in performance improvements across the power curve, for example because the new software allows you to operate the turbine closer to its theoretical performance limits.
The interface of DEIF’s Service Manager software provides an intuitive overview of wind turbine operation. This screen shows current turbine status and power production; by selecting a different menu on the right, the user can quickly get more details on a specific area.
Selecting a retrofit partner
Realising the benefits above requires that your retrofit partner can deliver a state-of-the-art solution that fits your turbines. You also need a partner willing to give you full access to controllers and data so that you can assume full control of your wind farm. In addition, the partner should be able and willing to understand your requirements, working with you to optimise, upgrade, or develop your turbines so that they fit your operation – now and in future. They are your turbines; you should be able to operate, service, maintain, and monitor them in a way that suits you, not the OEM, no matter how wind patterns change at your site, and no matter how, or how often, grid codes are updated.