Vleemo lacked central management of its 34 wind turbines, often resulting in costly unplanned downtime. When faced with the need for manual intervention, the lack of easily accessible and interpretable data prevented VLEEMO from finding the root cause quickly. To solve these issues, they needed real-time insights into the status of the turbines and third-party data sources. Hello, open source process historian.

About VLEEMO

VLEEMO is a Belgian wind turbine operator, generating sustainable electricity for more than 65.000 households in Belgium. The company has a wealth of experience and know-how in the field of financing, development, construction and operation of wind turbine parks in the port area. The company operates 34 wind turbines on the Right Bank of the Port of Antwerp, with more turbines under construction.

The business challenge

Centralise process data

VLEEMO lacked central management of its wind turbines. Incomplete information often resulted in unplanned (and very expensive) downtime. When faced with the need for manual intervention, a lack of easily accessible and interpretable data prevented VLEEMO to analyse its wind turbine operations with required depth. This resulted in lost opportunities to learn from incidents and problems. Their current systems did not suffice, mainly because these systems were not centrally available. To solve these issues, they were looking for a user-friendly process historian, offering them a single source of the truth for troubleshooting.

Improve wind turbine operations

Optimizing electricity output from wind turbines is not a walk in the park. It requires constant adaptation to environmental conditions, while staying within the legislative boundaries such as shadow flicker and ice formation limitations.

VLEEMO’s business challenge is to generate as much electricity as possible given variable weather conditions while staying within these regulatory boundaries.

For those boundaries, there is a good reason. Shadow flicker, the on-and-off flicker effect as the turbine blade rotates, can induce adverse human health effects such as annoyance and stress, while pieces of falling ice can cause injuries.

Obtaining a central overview of all that’s happening and will be happening in the field, would allow VLEEMO to maximize energy production within the regulatory limitations, as well as achieve time savings.

Factry solutions

Factry’s solution goes full circle: from process data collection to data analysis, compliance to regulations, operational optimisation, and the data flow back to the devices themselves in order to further control the environment. VLEEMO’s process historian journey underwent five iterations in which value was added at every stage.

  1. Collect the data from the turbines using Factry’s collectors
  2. Aggregate the data in a time-series database with Factry Historian and visualise it in Grafana dashboards
  3. Add additional sensors and weather forecasts to the system
  4. Develop a custom stream processing algorithm for more detailed insights
  5. Deliver the processed data back to the turbine control system through Factry’s cloud platform, enabling more informed decision-making.

Real-time data collection

In the past, VLEEMO’s wind turbines were primarily monitored using remote-controlled SCADA systems. After implementing Factry Historian, sensor information from the turbines is now automatically gathered and stored in the InfluxDB database in real-time. Multiple OPC-UA collectors are used. These collectors retrieve the data from the industrial control system via OPC-UA and forward the data over HTTPS.

By gathering all data from different sources, centrally gathering it and adding a custom interpretation on that, Vleemo was able to perform significant operational improvements.

The data collectors are built according to a store-and-forward model: If there is no connection to the storage backend, they keep a local buffer of the data that’s been collected. As soon as the connection is restored, the data is forwarded. They also keep a local copy of the configuration.

Data collectors can be easily added through a central administration panel, with names, endpoints, usernames, and passwords. The collectors pick up their latest configuration automatically.

Real-time data visbility

A user-friendly dashboard now gives VLEEMO a central overview of the turbine statuses. Process data is visualised in custom dashboards, leveraging the full power and usability of Factry Historian’s visual component Grafana. With these dashboards, VLEEMO can take immediate action when issues occur and increase employee engagement at the same time. And in the long haul, it allows them to work more efficiently and save time in their day-to-day operations.

On the top left of the dashboard below, the specific wind park and turbine can be selected to view the right data. This represents basic data collection offering historical insights into what is happening over a period of time.

A look at the results

Factry’s solution for VLEEMO achieved quantifiable and qualitative business value.

The company is now able to quantify the amount and source of lost revenue as input for operational improvement. Through data-driven analysis and decision-making enabled by their process historian, VLEEMO is adhering to the legal boundaries while maximizing energy production and optimizing its operations in real-time.

Taking the process historian a step further

Digital Twins of all turbines and their surroundings act on real-time turbine data to optimize turbine control. As a result, VLEEMO was able to decrease its operating costs with 20% and decrease lost revenue due to unplanned downtime with 3%.

In case of production issues, VLEEMO now intervenes more quickly and qualitatively, by leveraging a more profound and accurate turbine status. Based on the process data that is currently available, we at Factry can now interpret the turbine’s statuses even in more detail than the turbine manufacturer itself.

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