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The Magazine

Wind service

Remote diagnostics: the facts

With Siemens Remote Diagnostic Service (RDS), part of Siemens Digital Services, powered by Sinalytics platform, wind turbine owners enjoy round-the-clock support for early detection of damage and a rapid assessment of measures for maximized uptime.

Wind power is experiencing a boom. Around the globe, turbines are being installed, either singly or in large arrays, on- or offshore. Many of the best locations are on the high seas or in inaccessible parts of the world, making service and maintenance a major cost factor; and yet, solitary though they may seem, turbines do not stand in splendid isolation. Nearly 10,000 Siemens machines are equipped with sensors (300 for each turbine) that deliver a continuous stream of data to Brande, Denmark.

Here, at Siemens’ Remote Diagnostic Center, a large wall-mounted display shows the operational status of each turbine. Data analysts keep a 24/7 watch over the screens, handling any event that requires their attention. The flow of information includes data for temperature, pressure, power, vibration data, position, weather data, and turbine configuration, which is collected in large databases and depicted in the case-handling system used by the data analysts.

That data allows the observer to track the output and productivity status either for each turbine individually or for an entire fleet – information that is available to the analysts in Brande, to the Siemens site personnel, and to the turbine owners, who receive that information via the Siemens Wind Diagnostics app. This is part of the RDS package, which includes a suite of services such as monitoring, alarm handling, data analysis, technical support, software updates, notification, advice, and reporting.

The Siemens Remote Diagnostic Center in Brande, Denmark was opened in 2014.

Vibration diagnostics

A key part of this bigger picture is provided by vibration sensors that pick up any irregular signals from the wind turbine gearbox, gear, main bearing, or generator. Even minuscule hairline cracks in the material, which are visible to the human eye only under fluorescent light, show up as clearly discernible anomalies on the vibration diagnostic report. As soon as an alarm is raised, a response is initiated: Analysts check the data to determine whether the installation needs to be shut down or remotely reset, or whether it can continue to operate until repairs are made.

This predictive capability often makes visual inspection unnecessary, which cuts down on maintenance costs; more importantly, however, it helps the turbine owner to avoid extended periods of downtime, often adding weeks of productive operation that would otherwise have been lost. At the same time, an accurate diagnostic report tells the service crew exactly what to expect.

Analysts Morten Kaiser and Mads Lauridsen monitor a display showing the operational states of wind turbines around the globe.

In good repair

Until the repair is carried out, many turbines can continue to operate safely without consequential degradation of other components. And even if the fault is minor, the analysts can predict damage that would otherwise cause major outages unless identified in advance. In the pioneering days of wind power, these decisions had to be based on visual evidence gathered by the service crew on location; now, all necessary information can be gleaned from the sensor data alone.

Bo Roemer-Odgaard, head of the vibration diagnostics team, cites a recent example: “For one of our turbines, the sensors showed an increase in vibrations both on the gearbox and in the main bearing. Based on an analysis of the data, the vibration diagnostic team was able to determine that it was just the main bearing that had failed, and not the gearbox.” This information made the repair process a lot smoother: “When the main bearing was replaced, the vibrations also disappeared from the gearbox, as expected. Before conducting our analysis, we had been certain we would have to exchange both components.”

Christopher Findlay, journalist based in Zurich
Picture credits: Lars Moeller, Siemens