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Snowtown II wind farm turbines turning big data into smart data

Siemens Ltd is using the data
provided by over 800 sensors strategically positioned on the wind turbines at
Australia’s newest wind farm in its research to optimise performance and
minimise the need for potentially costly maintenance.

Every rotation of the ninety 3.0MW
turbines at Snowtown II wind farm is continually monitored offsite to develop
key target values that can evaluate potential errors and correct them remotely.
Siemens’ work is yet another example of the state-of-the-art technology
incorporated into Australia’s latest renewable resource power plant and
demonstrates the engineering expertise available in Australia.

According to Engineers Australia
Chief Executive Officer Stephen Durkin, it represents the benefits of continually
developing the engineering talent available in Australia so they can be part of
the exciting work that is going on at a global level.

He added that the work of
engineers on projects such as Snowtown II is being showcased and demonstrated at
the ongoing Engineers Australia Convention 2014 at the Melbourne Convention
Centre this week.

Siemens Ltd CEO Jeff Connolly
said the project also represented a graphic illustration of the transformation
of big data into smart data and the move towards a digitalised economy in
preparation for the fourth industrial revolution.

He explained that the information
from Snowtown II is fed to their monitoring centre in Denmark, which collates
similar data from Siemens’ wind farms around the globe. The database, which
contained 97 terabytes of data till last year is expected to grow to 268TB by

However, the challenge lies in turning
that data into meaningful information or smart data to enhance productivity. He
added that the Siemens wind power service centre was an excellent example of
digitalisation for efficiency.

The huge amount of data
collected from Siemens wind farms is used to remotely monitor tiny variations
and identify potential defects long before any service work is required. In
some cases, Siemens engineers can detect defective main shaft bearings up to a
whole year before they have to be replaced.

Data from the Snowtown II site
flows continually to the diagnostic centre of Siemens Wind Power Services in
Brande in western Denmark. The facility collects and evaluates all the operating
data from more than 7,500 Siemens wind turbines all over the world using the
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Turbine Condition
Monitoring (TCM) systems from Siemens. While the SCADA system collects the
turbines’ electronic and mechanical data as well as information about weather
and power grids, TCM is a vibration recognition system.

Each wind turbine nacelle
contains up to nine sensors that measure the vibrations of the turbines’ key
components such as the transmission case, the generator, and the main shaft
bearing at the rotor blades. Each turbine at Snowtown II is equipped with TCM,
which monitors it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The collected vibration data is transmitted
to a reference database in Brande where it is automatically processed to create
sample values for the normal operation of the various types of wind turbines;
the target values are continuously compared with the current operating data of
active turbines.

The vibration sensors can detect
even tiny deviations that indicate a potential defect enabling the system to
discover a damaged gear wheel, for example, long before the transmission breaks
down. When needed, Siemens engineers can remotely switch off the affected wind
turbine and arrange for repair work.

The centre measures more than
2,500 anomalies every week with the 100 analysts at the facility investigating
these error messages and transmitting more than 100 early warnings to the
service technicians every week. If a case is serious, the technicians go
directly to the affected turbine to take care of the matter after the centre
has provided them all the information about the turbine and its operating

The flow of extremely detailed
data is the key to the system’s success because it enables diagnostics experts
in Brande to precisely determine what kind of defect they are dealing with and
whether or not a service team needs to be sent out to the affected turbine.

For example, if individual turbine
components exceed or drop below temperature tolerance ranges, the wind turbine
in question automatically shuts down. However, if the off-site technicians come
to the conclusion that the anomaly is not serious, they can remotely restart
the wind turbine as soon as the temperatures have returned to their normal

The performance data from the
remote monitoring system allows Siemens’ engineers to remotely solve issues
affecting 80 per cent of the stopped turbines within ten minutes. Another five
per cent of the problems take somewhat longer to solve, but do not require
technicians to be sent to the defective turbines. Only 15 per cent of the cases
require service technicians to go onsite and work on the affected wind turbines.

A long-time advocate of smart
data, Siemens Wind Power Services became one of the first companies in the
world in 1998 to install sensors in its wind turbines as standard procedure.

Work on the $439 million
Snowtown II project began in August 2012 with Siemens providing a full turnkey
project solution for the wind farm including the associated 275kv high voltage
substation. The 90 turbines at Snowtown II represent the largest installation
of Siemens’ innovative ‘Direct Drive’ technology commissioned to date. The
Direct Drive technology uses half the moving parts of a conventional geared
turbine, resulting in reduced complexity and increased reliability.

Officially opened by South
Australian Premier Jay Weatherill on November 2, Snowtown II will produce 989
gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, enough to provide clean, emission-free power for
180,000 homes.

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