Technology application: Sensors for windmill condition monitoring

When your equipment is very hard to get at, the right instrumentation makes a big difference.
By Control Engineering Staff April 17, 2008

Wind turbines are typically placed in remote locations and they’re very tall. That gives operators strong motivation to equip them with sensor and diagnostic systems to minimize hands-on maintenance visits. With wind park deployments growing dramatically, operators need ways to reduce costs. Curtiss has designed a specialized system just for that challenging application.

The Nebraska Public Power District owns and operates the state’s largest wind facility near Ainsworth, in the north-central part of the state. It’s a 60 MW facility with 36 wind turbines. CWFC’s Swantech division has created a collection of sensor devices that monitor mechanical systems, lubrication, and even the physical condition of parts subject to particular stresses.

Swantech’s patented technology listens for friction in the ultrasonic range, detecting the earliest signs of developing cracks, pitting, spalling, surface wear, and lubrication degradation. The company says the Swanwind system provides the most comprehensive and cost-effective condition monitoring for wind turbines available today. The data provided helps wind turbine operators determine gear box lubrication condition as well as understand the impact of operational decisions on major components. It incorporates patented sensor and advanced analysis technology, high speed wireless and fiber optic communications, with open Web-based architecture and integrated SCADA capabilities.

“Swantech is very pleasednce curve by detecting the onset of lubrication breakdown and component failure at the earliest stages.”

—Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com ,
Process Instrumentation & Sensors Monthly
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