Wind is a free and unlimited resource that provides potential energy toward the growing demand for clean, renewable power. In coastlines, islands, grasslands, mountainous areas, and plateaus that lack water, fuel and convenient transportation, wind power poses a potential boon for addressing local challenges.
Chaka Wind Farm is located on the Gobi Desert in Qinghai Province, China. At an altitude of 3,200 meters (nearly 2 miles), Qinghai has abundant wind energy reserves. Since its commissioning in December 2012, the energy-capturing capacity of the installed wind power turbines has reached 99 MW, while the annual average power generation is about 184 million kWh and the average annual utilization hours are a mere 1,850 hours.
However, the plateau environment experiences squally winds all year round, and in severe cold winters the temperature often falls below minus 30° C! At those temperatures, the biting cold wind carries a severe risk of freezing for wind farm employees, and the harsh weather makes operation and maintenance extremely difficult.
Challenges: Grueling operating environment and high human costs
A wind turbine’s transmission system is composed of blades, hubs, main shafts, gear boxes, and couplings. Its main function is to convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical energy of rotation, then into electrical energy. As the key element in wind power, these wind turbines require routine maintenance.
At present, maintenance relies mainly on the on-site staff climbing up the towers to check for and predict unit failures. However, the difficulty lies in the fact that most of the wind farms are located in remote areas. When they rely solely on manual maintenance, the costs remain high enough to threaten the economics of the whole operation.
Chaka Wind Farm hosts 62 wind towers, distributed across a wide 38,000 square meters (9.4 acres). This generous area creates a big challenge for maintenance staff who spend large amounts of time on transportation and logistics from tower to tower. Furthermore, according to the maintenance plan, workers have to climb each 80-meter-high wind tower for routine inspections each month.
Solutions: Intelligent monitoring and remote dialogue
To solve these challenges, Hikvision provided a set of intelligent operation and maintenance systems for Chaka Wind Farm, including intelligent visual inspection equipment, personnel safety management, and real-time communication, providing a 24-hour online "Smart Examiner” for the wind farm.
First, for core unit components, thermal cameras are deployed in the wind turbine cabin to monitor equipment temperatures. This way, machine failures can be detected immediately, and staff can be automatically alerted when abnormal conditions (such as overheating) are found.
In addition, with the wind towers located in the expansive Gobi Desert, unstable communications can leave operating personnel feeling disconnected. To resolve this, Hikvision’s one-key alarm intercom at the bottom of wind tower provides communication with the control center. Technicians at headquarters can remotely support personnel during on-site maintenance operations, assisting with diagnoses and repairs.
Lastly, panoramic and thermal cameras and other equipment vastly expand the visual capabilities of the control center. Staff can monitor the situation and various parameters around the wind turbines at all times. If an abnormality is found, they can immediately receive an alert from the system and identify specific problems.
Benefits: More visual management capabilities and fewer climbs
“Originally, each wind turbine had to be inspected by staff members every month; climbing the towers was difficult and the risk factor was high. After the intelligent operation and maintenance system was installed, the engine room equipment on each tower can be inspected daily through the video system. Now each wind turbine only needs to be visited once every three months, and the frequency of climbing is reduced more than 60 percent,” said Sun, a technical operating engineer from Chaka Wind Farm.
“More importantly, those problems that could only be discovered by personnel on the scene can now be identified by the intelligent operation and maintenance system – even proactive and early warnings of abnormal problems – which is a great help for our overall equipment operation and maintenance.”