Real-Time Wind Turbine Control — With a Smartphone

wind turbines

Wind turbine control in real time.

Name of Organization: SCADA Solutions

Industry: Energy management, power generation

Location: Irvine, CA USA

Business Opportunity or Challenge Encountered:

Wind power is becoming a key part of the power grid.  Approximately 72,000 mewgawatts of wind turbines existed on the U.S. power grid at the end of 2015, enough to provide power to 20 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

But wind can be hard to control, as a turbine produces power when the wind blows, and wind patterns can be unpredictable and erratic. That creates a problem: Having too much power flow on the transmission system all at once can destabilize the electric grid.

Turbines built in recent years have real-time monitoring systems built in to control power flows, but older models do not. That means utilities need to invest in expensive equipment on older turbines to regulate such flows.

In California, which has 5,662 MW of wind on the grid, the situation is even more challenging. The state’s grid operator requires older wind farms curtail their output when power companies say so. In these instances, the wind farm operator may have as little as five minutes to respond, as California’s real-time energy market sets prices in five-minute intervals.

As a result, wind farm operators have to staff their facilities with technicians around the clock, who are charged with physically turning on or off individual turbines within the required time frame — or face fines. Technicians bring the turbines back online when the grid is ready for more power.

SCADA Solutions, which specializes in communication, automation and integration capabilities for both old and new turbines, sought to develop a system that could interact with power companies in real time and respond to requests to shut off and start up power sources on demand.

How This Business Opportunity or Challenge Was Met: 

SCADA Solutions teamed with Opto 22 to offer real-time and next-interval monitoring of wind turbines for California’s energy markets.

SCADA Solutions specializes in SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems, which are industrial-control systems that operate over long distances, and offers WindCapture, an online monitoring and control system. Meanwhile, Opto 22’s SNAP PAC System is an integrated system of hardware and software for industrial control, remote monitoring, and data acquisition applications.

Under the architecture, Opto 22’s SNAP PAC series controllers supervise individual I/O controllers on each turbine, a wireless mesh radio network for communications, and Opto 22’s Groov operator interface for mobile devices. Opto 22’s Groov platform, meanwhile, enables a SCADA Solutions app to work on IOS and Android devices to provide users with real-time access, monitoring of turbines, and market notifications.

The system can provide automated curtailment of turbine groups based on operator-defined setpoints, such as five-minute and next-interval pricing in the California energy market.


A WindCapture monitoring screen. Photo: SCADA Solutions.

Benefits from This Initiative:

With the new system in place, “we can take the analog and digital data from the field and bring it into control software that monitors and manages the whole wind farm,” according to Craig VanWagner, engineer for SCADA Solutions, as quoted in an Opto 22 case study.

“The application suite gives us a variety of interfaces and protocols and the ability to push OPC data [data from SCADA systems] to the cloud, while groov allows our customers to access live turbine data and control those turbines from a smartphone or other mobile device. It also makes it really easy to get in front of new customers when you show them, on their own personal phone, how they can monitor and control their wind turbines from anywhere.”

With this new offering, SCADA Solutions intends to help utility owners see additional revenue from enabling wind farm control systems to automatically optimize generation for maximum revenue. The new systems are also designed to bring substantial savings from reducing technician travel and labor costs, along with preventive maintenance capabilities.

“If at any time a turbine starts to degrade from a pre-established baseline, WindCapture can send an alert to the customer before there’s a failure,” VanWagner states.

(Sources: SCADA Solutions, Opto 22)


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