Big Data and the IoT: The future of wind farms?

April 28, 2017 • Blog Post • Ulrich Pfeiffer, Chief Technologist EMEA, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Wind farms will undoubtedly play a key role in future energy systems. However, you might be surprised to hear that their current management is yet to be automated, with the turbine, energy and IT systems all being managed separately.

This is set to change, with the advancement of the IoT and Big Data analysis, which are being used to unite the physical and virtual worlds. Over the coming decades, energy systems will be founded on large-scale, networked renewable generators, as well as energy storage facilities used by businesses and consumers alike. The aim of this is to offset the inevitable fluctuations in renewable energy production, as well as maintaining stable power grids. This is still some time away, as with so many parties and technologies involved, a truly integrated and automated management system needs to be introduced.

We are making steps towards this however, as physical infrastructures and control processes are becoming increasingly interconnected through the IoT and the increased processing capacity that Big Data analysis now provides. Without this technology, neither the design nor the control of these complex, highly connected infrastructures of the future would be possible. As a consequence, infrastructure providers are set to be major IoT beneficiaries. Companies from the energy sector are also hoping to lower their expenses, increase productivity, and tap into new markets by investing in IoT, automation, management, and Big Data.


Managing the Life Cycle of a Wind Farm

Wind farms provide a concrete example of how IoT and Big Data concepts can be applied to the energy environment. According to the International Energy Agency, wind energy will represent 18 percentof energy production by 2050. If wind farms continue to be managed through conventional methods however, significant challenges in efficiency will have to be met.

One of these challenges is that individual wind generators use different types of systems, built by multiple manufacturers. Wind park operators must therefore know how to use the specific software designed for each type of facility component. There is no overriding, unified management level. Without this, issues with the generator may not be recognised, because it is not possible to correlate the data of the various systems.

Here, solutions such as HPE Windpark Manager, which brings together HPE’s expertise in the management of complex IT environments, IoT technology and Big Data analysis, can provide assistance. This merges data from different sources – wind, energy or IT systems to create a unified image of the operating environment, and enables deeper levels of detail to be examined.


Putting Windpark Manager to Use

HPE Windpark Manager is already being put to use. Based on HPE Operations Bridge, HPE Network Node Manager and HPE Business Value Dashboards (BVD), the system ensures that all data obtained by a wind farm’s sensors is fed into its central database and dashboard, enabling a 360-degree management view of the wind farm from a single console.

Due to mechanical stress, wind turbines are particularly susceptible to transmission, bearings and shaft damage. That’s why the system records and correlates data points on vibration data, oil temperature and the particle content of the oil found in each turbine transmission, among others. Depending on the resulting overall picture, the system generates corresponding error messages, which can be traced back to their root cause. The system is also able to recognise problems as they are developing.

Through this, the wind farm operator can recognise expected damage and can pro-actively prevent or delay it. As a result, individual wind turbines rarely suffer unscheduled breakdowns, increasing profitability of the wind farm. In critical situations, the system responds either automatically, or by displaying predefined actions for administrators to choose from. Moreover, an access and authorisation management process ensures that no unauthorised access – either internal or external – can be carried out.

With HPE Windpark Manager, it is possible to manage the entire life cycle of a wind farm, from the planning and financing stage, to the construction, operation and maintenance of farms – right up to the end of its working life. This example showcases the potential to increase efficiencies in any industry. HPE can apply the knowledge it has obtained from decades of experience in managing complex, large plants and networks, including large datacentres and telecommunications networks. This applied technology, in all of its diversity, scalability and openness, can now be directed at the needs of professional end-users in many sectors – wind farms to name just one!