Why automation is the future of the wind industry

ARSOS for Intelligent Control can help Remote Operations Centres (ROCs) scale up operations while keeping costs low.

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As the world strives to meet goals to slash carbon emissions and prevent the worst impacts of climate change, installations of renewable energy technology are growing exponentially. Over 320GW of wind are predicted to be generating energy by 2030, more than double the capacity installed at the end of 2016, according to WindEurope.  

However, this surge in capacity is already starting to leave Remote Operations Centres (ROCs) struggling to cope with the number of assets they have to monitor and control. Typically, a control centre team will monitor incoming data from the turbines for issues. When a problem occurs, workers must first check the error code, then identify a solution in accordance to the operations protocol, as well as check other criteria to determine whether the wind turbine can be restarted or requires onsite maintenance operations to be performed by a field technician which is notified from the ROC. It is frequently a complex and time-consuming process that takes on average 15-30 minutes.  

This may not sound like a long time, but in a portfolio of 1000 turbines this could mean 12000 hours of aggregated unavailability and production loss. What if the same process could always be undertaken in less than five seconds? The availability, production and safety of wind turbines could be increased, while ROC operators are freed up for more analytical tasks and making high-level decisions. 

Green Eagle Solutions wants to help ROCs to scale up their portfolios without proportionally increasing operational costs. Its new product, ARSOS - Autonomous Renewable Smart Operations Software – will enable exactly this. 

How does it work? The technical experts at Green Eagle Solutions have constructed a logic engine to undertake the same process as a human would as soon as a problem is found. The wind farm’s operations protocol is automated, after which the software can work with as many wind turbines as an operator manages - unlike human operators, who have a limit for how many assets they can monitor simultaneously. 

It can also be programmed to take into account specific maintenance strategies down to the level of an individual turbine. For example, a turbine in poor condition could be stopped to protect it from high wind speeds or turbulence to extend its operating lifetime, or a turbine could be restarted or stopped in response to commercial needs such as the market price of energy. 

In short, ARSOS allows ROCs to operate ten times as many turbines per ROC operator, integrates external data into the automatic operation of wind farms enabling the implementation of much more complex operations protocols, and increases efficiency by applying Artificial Intelligence algorithms to automate smart operations - cutting turbine downtime and operational costs while maximising availability and revenue. 

So far, the wind industry has been reluctant to embrace automation, reflecting a wider caution in society to allow machines to be in control, says Alejandro Cabrera, CEO at Green Eagle Solutions. But the company believes that automation is the future for the sector. 

"Many industries have found that automation can increase security levels - machines can take many more variables into account, meaning that operational decisions are more reliable than those made by humans. In addition, they will always work, or if not, they will tell you, unlike a human, with good and bad days,” he says. 

Juan Fernández, CTO at Green Eagle Solutions says: “The idea of automation is not new, but the fact that we’re doing it through a platform that takes into account monitoring, analysis and control, and does this for every wind technology, is where ARSOS is very innovative.”

Renewable energy giant RWE has already proven the benefits of ARSOS. RWE is an existing client of Green Eagle Solutions’ data acquisition services, and was experiencing scalability issues in its Iberian ROC as the number of turbines to operate grew. Its control centre team was already at full capacity with >400 wind turbines in its portfolio. With plans to double its number of turbines operated, the company was keen to try out ARSOS. 

In one month, in just one RWE wind farm, ARSOS executed 910 automated actions, 600 turbine resets and 300 notifications informing field technicians of onsite issues that needed attendance. It also proved its support for ROC teams put under strain by particular climatic conditions, such as days with abrupt variations in wind speed when operators need to act faster, but without compromising the safety of the fleet. With automation, the response of the control room is not affected during these peak times, enabling wind farm operators to comply with service level agreements (SLA). 

Crucially, RWE was already using Green Eagle Solutions’ OEM SCADA maintenance service to ensure the quality of its data acquisition. “The whole data flow is really important, you can’t operate intelligently if you’re not taking the correct set of data and making sure it's reliable,” said Green Eagle Solutions’ Juan Álvarez de Toledo, business development manager at Green Eagle Solutions.  

RWE estimates that ARSOS could optimize and potentially save around 1,400 hours of work, equating a minimum of €110,000 a year. Response time to issues is now immediate, which is leading to an annual rise in revenue of €190,000 due to increased availability and production. Based on these results, RWE has now expanded use of ARSOS to its entire 750 turbine fleet in Spain and Italy. 

“ARSOS has surpassed our expectations, and has proved that we can operate a fleet twice as big with the same resources,” said Antonio González, RWE’s Iberian ROC Director. 

“The numbers prove that automated actions are actually impacting turbine availability,” said Cabrera. “It says a lot about the amount of work that humans can be relieved from in the ROCs, and how much money can be saved using ARSOS. ROC teams can instead focus on higher and deeper analytical tasks: customer added value, onsite assistance, and performance analysis of the operations protocol itself.”

To find out how ARSOS intelligent control can benefit you, use Green Eagle Solutions’ online calculator to estimate the financial benefits of increasing energy production and reducing operational costs. Click here to receive a personalised calculation.

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