Photo credits: CENER Blade Test Laboratory
Via EUREC members CENER
Currently, state-of-the-art wind farms coexist with other farms in which the technology has already fulfilled or is about to fulfill their useful life: 20 years. Now, the owners of these farms need to decide what to do with these outdated facilities.
The National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain (CENER) has developed a methodology, which is based on (1) the information provided by the SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and (2) the information provided by the digital copies of the wind turbines. This digital twins ultimate goal for the owner of a wind farm is to make possible to decide, with as few uncertainties as possible, what to do with their asset as it approaches the end of its design useful life.
The SCADA system is limited both, in the number and type of variables and in their frequency. An alternative to extend the reach of these sources of information is the digital copies of wind turbines, which represent the real wind turbine and allow obtaining additional detailed information on its state and behavior. Digital copies based on aero-servo-elastic models (or hydro-aero-servo-elastic, in marine wind turbines), are consistent with the standard wind turbine design methodology used by the industry of wind turbine manufacturers. In addition, a digital copy model allows obtaining detailed operational information (system dynamics, loads, operational variables, produced power, etc.).
Thanks to the methodology proposed by CENER, the owner of the wind farm will have additional information on the state of the assets, which is essential in making decisions, especially when wind turbines approach to their end of theoretical useful life. In this way, making profitability decisions is easier thanks to the amount of valuable information provided by digital twins in terms of life extension, optimization of inspection and maintenance plans, operation of the park, replacement of components, dismantling, etc.
Likewise, and given that the methodology is aligned with current and developing normative and regulatory frameworks, it will facilitate undertaking the certification processes or presentation of guarantees that may be necessary. But the advantages go further if life management is also considered from the commissioning of the wind farm, with the aim of increasing the operating profit. The digital copy allows to monitor the evolution of the consumption of life of each structural component and to adapt the inspection and maintenance plans, as well as the operation of the park, thus optimizing its costs. Through operational information, faults or deviations in the expected operation can also be detected and analyzed. And finally, digital copying also facilitates the evaluation and application of new modes of operation through the coordinated control of wind turbines in the park.
CENER is therefore about trying to achieve, thanks to digital twins, the effective life extension of the wind farms, operating in the most profitable and efficient way possible.
Authors: Irene Eguinoa, Álvaro González and Cecilio Sarobe, researchers from the CENER Wind Energy Department.