GIS Tech News (#104)

16 Feb, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

Remote Monitoring Makes Maintenance a Breeze for Wind Farms

Beijing's Guohua Energy Investment Company deploys an SKF sensor system to keep tabs on turbine conditions.

By Colin Roberts

When the fourth-biggest wind farm operator in China increases its installed capacity by 50% within one year, that indicates a company that knows its business. And one of the business aspects that all wind farm operators must attend to is "turbine reliability" — keeping the turbines turning as much as possible, and keeping maintenance activities down to a minimum. Reduced maintenance is always a valuable contribution to bottom-line profitability, but when you've got 2,000 MW of installed capacity, then you are talking about huge amounts of money on the line.

That is why Weihua Zhou, Deputy General Manager of the Production Department for Guohua Energy Investment Company, based in Beijing, made a decision in 2008 to evaluate his maintenance strategy and the technology to be applied within that strategy. A critical decision was to look for the fastest and most effective way to determine the health of his turbines.

Investigating Online Monitoring

With several turbine designs and sizes out in the field, Zhou needed the best possible way to get reliable and regular information about the general condition of selected turbines of these designs and types. At the same time, he wanted identify any typical negative trends that might occur in the various field operating conditions that the turbines are exposed to.

Not satisfied with his previous assessment process of only using temperature readings of gearbox oil and generator bearing housings, Zhou wanted to investigate online monitoring, where vibration signals from critical components are collected 24 hours a day and analyzed to determine where problems are developing, and how severe they are. This type of monitoring would allow critical maintenance to be planned well in advance, helping the company avoid unexpected and very costly breakdowns. He knew that this type of condition monitoring is widely used in countries such as the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Close study of vibration spectra reveals the condition of machinery and components.


Using vibration sensors mounted on a turbine's main shaft bearings, drive train gearbox, and generator, SKF WindCon 3.0 collects, analyzes, and compiles a configurable range of operating data. WindCon uses CAN-bus interconnectivity to a number of the systems found in a modern wind turbine, such as centralized lubrication systems, blade monitoring systems, and gearbox oil condition systems. WindCon can track operating conditions such as unbalanced propeller blades, misalignment, gear damage, electrical problems, and tower vibrations. Read more »
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Colin Roberts is vice-president of SKF Group Technical Press.

Mark Your Calendar: GIS Events

2011 Esri Developer Summit
March 7–11, 2011
Palm Springs, California
This event will include a series of preconference seminars, technical sessions, a Tech Support Island, user presentations from GIS developers, and a plenary session with a keynote address by Bill Clark, research vice president at Gartner Research. Read more

2011 Geospatial Solutions Conference
April 10–13, 2011
Dallas, Texas
This event from the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) will include eight half-day workshops, more than 70 technical sessions, an exhibit hall, an Open Source track, and forums with featured speakers. Read more

Hexagon 2011 International Conference
June 6–9, 2011
Orlando, Florida
Leica Geosystems' User Conferences for Laser Scanning and Airborne Sensing have been combined with Hexagon AB's inaugural international conference to form the Hexagon 2011 International Conference. Hexagon 2011 will feature more than 200 break-out sessions tailored by tracks, incorporating training courses, technology previews, technical demonstrations and workshops, and customer testimonials. Read more 

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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