PC-based Control for Wind Turbines

Open automation solutions for wind power

The use of renewable forms of energy such as wind power has become well established in the global energy supply. This was given vital impetus in particular by the global efforts to reduce emissions of CO2.

In the course of this development, besides the European markets which were dominant until recently, new markets such as China and India or – once again – the USA, are pushing themselves to the fore at terrific speed and placing completely new demands on wind turbines and their automation. Representative of these demands are the requirements made by different conditions for feeding the grid and by greatly extended climatic operating conditions. Whereas up until a few years ago the use of wind turbines under Arctic or desert climatic conditions was an exception for research purposes, nowadays the fulfilment of these extreme conditions has almost been elevated to an industry standard.

Manufacturers of wind turbines therefore face the task of retaining maximum flexibility in face of the continually changing demands of the market in order to keep their products competitive. Beckhoff PC-based control technology and automation components, which are nowadays in use in wind turbines up to a size of 5 MW – including cold climate regions such as the North Cape and extreme climatic regions such as Inner Mongolia – make their contribution to fulfilling these requirements.

Continuity and flexibility using PC-based control
Beckhoff implements open automation systems on the principle of PC-based control technology. This openness in relation to the software and hardware interfaces enables the turbine manufacturers to adapt their systems to varying demands both in the first draft design and also for later system expansion or modification at low cost.

Scalable control technology
With Industrial PCs, I/Os and fieldbus components as well as the TwinCAT automation software, the product range of Beckhoff comprises an integrated, scalable and modular control system. It provides suitable solutions for every task related to processing power, complexity and cost in wind turbines. For its PC-based automation solutions, Beckhoff supplies hardware platforms in all power categories.

Beckhoff solutions for wind power
Beckhoff’s open and scalable TwinCAT automation software is a software PLC for PCs. Programming in accordance with the international IEC 61131-3 standard guarantees the turbine manufacturers high investment security. The utilisation of technological standards based on the Windows operating system opens up numerous expansion options and allows the user to benefit from the rapid development of the computer industry. It also enables the universal use of one technology for all types of turbines.

Production data
Data provision and data management in particular occupy a key position for control and evaluation of turbine performance both vertically (from the machine to the central control room) and horizontally (between the individual intelligent components and subsystems of the turbine and also between the turbines within a wind farm). Local data banks as a basis for the higher ranking data backup and data preparation do not pose any problems for the PC whatsoever. Porting all functions to PC hardware also simplifies data transfer – generally via Ethernet – to the production databases and ERP systems.

Maximum performance up to the I/Os
Beckhoff supplies a complete range of fieldbus components for all common I/O and fieldbus systems. The Bus Terminals and EtherCAT Terminals available are sufficient for the complete range of signal types and fieldbuses that are of relevance for wind power.

XFC technology – EtherCAT fully exploited
EtherCAT, the fast Ethernet-based fieldbus, offers optimum real-time properties for time-critical process requirements without the need for special hardware in the central processing unit. With XFC technology (eXtreme Fast Control Technology) a time resolution of < 100 ns is possible with the timestamp technique. Sensor signals can be read with sampling times of less than 10 μs.

Integrated safety using TwinSAFE
In recent years, operational safety and work safety have played an ever larger part in machine construction. With TwinSAFE, Beckhoff offers an integrated system solution with optimum synergy between automation technology and safety technology. TwinSAFE integrates safety functions in the existing control architecture and in particular helps to significantly reduce the wiring costs for the higher-level hard-wired safety chain in the wind turbine.

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