The world’s northernmost wind farm finds its Internet of Things soulmate in SAP and Fedem Technology. “We are always mindful about the weather,” says Richard Wasell, chief engineer at Arctic Wind, a remote wind farm in Havoysund, Norway. Winds can howl by at 100 miles per hour here, and it’s not unusual for temperatures to plunge 25° below zero. “We always have a backup plan for major maintenance operations.”
Maintenance is a key concern, because the wear and tear on materials is much greater in these extreme weather conditions. Wind turbines can be up to 130 meters high, including the glass fiber-reinforced polyester blades that weigh about 9,000 kg each. Flaws in the structural integrity of a turbine, meaning its capability to support designated loads without breaking apart or collapsing, can lead to catastrophic damages, monetary losses for operating companies, and even death. That’s why the identification of structural failure and prediction of failure are such a critical aspect of wind farm operations.
Remote Monitoring to the Rescue
Other challenges facing Wasell and his team include pitch darkness for many months of the year and the logistical nightmare of transporting spare parts, crews, and other resources under extreme conditions.
“We’re always looking for new ways to do things,” says Wasell. “So when Fedem approached us with a proposal to try new technology, we jumped at it.”
Fedem Technology, recently acquired by SAP, addresses Arctic Wind’s structural monitoring requirements with a cutting-edge cloud solution for digital inspections of high value industrial assets. With this tool, Fedem created a digital representation of Arctic Wind’s physical system and maintains its digital twin in the SAP Cloud. Real-time data from sensors continuously reflects and represents the physical reality, replacing the need for physical inspections with digital inspections of the turbines.
“Soon all the people and all the things in the world will have a digital twin,” says Arnulf Hagen, managing director of Fedem. “Basically, the term is used for any data captured from a sensor and stored in a database. But there are dumb twins, and there are smart twins. We have a smart twin, because it’s mimicking two things. First, it’s mimicking the physical structure, as it is when you observe it in the physical world. And secondly, we’re also mimicking the behavior of nature through the laws of motion, or the laws of Newtonian physics.”
According to Hagen, simply collecting data from things and putting it on the Internet is a passive approach. The smart Internet of Things happens when you gradually move more and more knowledge about the thing to the Internet. It’s not about storing sensor readings in a database. It’s about understanding the actual behavior of the thing.
“When you observe the same things remotely through the Internet as you would when you observe it physically, that’s when you start getting real value for money,” says Hagen.
The Internet of Smart Things
The solution FEDEM for Windpower considers complex forces in play and detects both instantaneous consequences of one-off events and long-term effects of cyclic loads, setting the stage for new ways of managing and predicting the remaining life of the asset. By accurately mirroring the physical state of the object, in the long run, the product will enable self-diagnosing, self-repairing, and self-regulating systems. This opens the path to higher efficiency, improved safety, less downtime, and lower costs.
“The more knowledge we have about the wind farm, the better our decision making will be,” concludes Wasell. “It will be that much easier to focus our resources and prioritize our actions.”