With its digital solutions SPIE optimizes the operational management of wind farm transformer stations

Published on 12 October 2020

Ratingen, 12 October 2020 – SPIE, the independent European leader in multi-technical services in the areas of energy and communications, operates around 40 wind farm transformer stations. For more than 20 years, SPIE has also been connecting renewable energies - for example wind farms - to the power grid via transformer stations and has been planning and setting up state-of-the-art switchboards. Here, the prime focus is on effectively and efficiently operating the energy infrastructure and ensuring high supply security. To achieve this, SPIE is increasingly relying on innovative digital solutions.

Combining teams’ long-term know-how with artificial intelligence

SPIE is already using several digital solutions that exploit the enormous potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Predictive maintenance enables predictive error detection. AI analyses sensor, image and weather data, and provides recommendations for plant operations. Ideally, an early warning system for maintenance optimization can prevent unplanned failures and malfunctions before they occur.

Today, SPIE experts monitor the operations of the wind farm transformer stations from the SPIE grid control centre located in Berlin: they perform remote switching operations, i.e. through remote monitoring, and coordinate actions to suppress interference. This approach ensures high availability of power plants at all times. “We have chosen to use currently available technologies to develop innovative monitoring solutions for existing plants. In cooperation with our customers, we use image recognition technology and algorithms to analyse data from sensors located in wind farm transformer stations, in order to more effectively remedy disturbances and to recognize potential malfunctions at an early stage”, explains Alexandra Scheibert, Innovation Manager in the High Voltage operational division at SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa. With the aid of such an early warning system for optimizing maintenance, unplanned power failures can be avoided, and technicians can be deployed more purposefully.

Using a digital twin for operational decisions

The data collected in real time from the facilities and the basic technical conditions of the transformer station are consolidated in a digital twin. The plant owner can visualize the reference and real time data with the digital twin and make long-term asset decisions, such as replacing plant components based on SPIE’s technical concept proposals. A digital image of the plant enables access to information on every individual component. “For instance, by clicking on the transformer, all available maintenance records, as well as drawings and manufacturer information, are provided. This information is compiled with a clear overview in a dashboard and recommendations for action are suggested”, explains Klauspeter Pein, Manager of SPIE’s Berlin-based grid control centre.

Increased performance through image recognition software

In cooperation with its partner Hesotech, SPIE has developed a DocuCam for transformer stations, in order to detect disturbances at an early stage without personnel being on site. Modern camera systems, which work with image recognition software, perform visual controls and transmit information to the grid control centre as soon as, for instance, a measured value is outside the defined tolerance range. “Up to now, an error message was reported via the control system in the affected transformer station but could not be analysed in detail. Now the disturbance can be defined more precisely and the appropriate measures to remedy it in advance can be taken”, explains Klauspeter Pein. This not only saves double travelling times, but also makes the operational management for technicians and operators more effective and efficient to organize.

Future digital development

Electrical engineering information, such as electricity, voltage, active power and reactive power, can be linked with the image recognition software in the digital twin, in order to support the error analysis. This is where the real potential is: “Today, service calls can already be reduced with the help of the cameras alone. But the digital twin’s self-learning allows to go further by capitalising over time and by comparing disturbances with reference data to identify behavioural models and anticipate potential disturbances before they occur”, reports Alexandra Scheibert.

Another advantage of this digital solution: the system identifies faster which work is necessary, and in which plant and at what time it needs to be done, in order to prepare the efficient deployment of the service technicians. For this purpose, the system includes online information –such as the weather forecast for the region – so that the grid control centre does not plan any shutdowns on particularly windy days for example.

Climate Neutral Future

The production of renewable energy from water, wind, biomass and sunlight is increasing. Year after year, renewable energies cover an ever-increasing part of the electricity consumption in Germany. Shaping a climate-neutral future is therefore one of the greatest market opportunities for SPIE: the Group has a high level of expertise in the energy sector and its solutions facilitate access to low-carbon energies and have been boosting the energy efficiency of buildings and facilities for many years. The multi-technical service provider has thus proven to be a reliable partner for network operators in implementing the energy transition.