In a study that will directly contribute to future product and service designs, GE is working with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to investigate ways to improve wind farm productivity and efficiency. The project is part of a larger Department of Energy (DOE) investment of $9 million to an IIT-led consortium to enhance the leadership role of the U.S. in testing and producing the most advanced and efficient wind turbines in the world.
The two-year project will focus on helping wind farms reduce maintenance costs and improve availability through predictions of impending problems. Researchers will use GE Intelligent Platform’s Proficy SmartSignal software (www.ge-ip.com/smartsignal) to predict equipment problems before they happen. The project’s research will be conducted near Marseilles, Ill. on a GE 1.5 MW series wind turbine operated and maintained by Chicago-based Invenergy (www.invenergyllc.com), a wind power generation company.
“The goal of this project is to illustrate how advanced and automated predictive diagnostics can improve the availability, reliability, and cost performance of wind power generation,” said Mohammad Shahidehpour, IIT Bodine Professor and director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation. Dr. Shahidehpour is serving as the principal investigator for the consortium.
Early warning system
“With skyrocketing costs, wind farms need to know ahead of time what needs to be fixed—and what doesn’t,” said Stacey Kacek, GE Intelligent Platforms general manager for asset intelligence. “If they have credible early warning of impending equipment problems, the farms can prioritize tower inspections, optimize crane usage, and leverage resources in remote locations. Being able to avoid surprises and take control of maintenance in a proactive way translates to significant cost savings for the industry.”
IIT students are conducting research to learn how to detect faults even earlier and more accurately than currently possible. The project includes adding more sensors than the industry standard, to improve condition-monitoring precision, and enhancing the SmartSignal models to include measurements of vibration, lube oil and blade pitch motors. The IIT team will monitor the turbine remotely from the IIT campus and analyze the energy output and overall equipment performance.
Dave Parta, project manager with GE Intelligent Platforms, said the software “essentially acts as a supporting experienced operator and technician, leveraging past experience and working 24/7. SmartSignal software currently “collects and analyzes tens of thousands of data points daily on wind farms across the country, and provides early warning of impending turbine and instrumentation failures,” he added.
“As a result of this research, we hope to improve the sensoring and modeling of wind farms. We’ll also be developing wind energy courses to address the technical, operational, social, and environmental aspects of wind energy. This will ensure that we have not only the technology, but also the talent necessary to compete and further innovate in the global marketplace,” Dr. Shahidehpour said.
For more information about this project and other innovative electricity integration research at IIT, visit www.iit.edu/galvin_center.
Renee Robbins Bassett, firstname.lastname@example.org, is Managing Editor for Automation World.