The winds of change bring automation opportunities | Automation.com

The winds of change bring automation opportunities

September 092008
The winds of change bring automation opportunities
September 10, 2008 editorial by Rick Zabel

Maybe it's because oil, natural gas and propane prices are so high. Maybe it's because it's an election year. Whatever the reason, it's about time we see more activity - in Wind. The Delaware Legislature recently approved a Wind Farm project off Delaware's Rehobeth Beach. While Delaware hopes to be the first state to construct a wind farm, by 2012, many other projects are proposed for the Atlantic coast.

I, for one, am encouraged by this alternative energy initiative and new-found support by surrounding communities. This year, we have seen consumers respond to rising gas prices by either embracing other commuting options, or just plain cutting back on driving. The quest for alternative energy sources is long overdue. We have miles of "wind energy" lining our coastline, just waiting to be tapped. We also have oceans of solar energy lying in our vast deserts, just waiting to be tapped. We have the technology, so why haven't we tapped these natural resources?

According to Tuesday's CNN article, Offshore wind farms may line U.S. coast, "Wind energy today accounts for only 1 percent of the nation's electricity. A May report from the Energy Department concluded wind energy could generate 20 percent by 2030, with offshore sources accounting for nearly 20 percent of that. Projects mostly would be located along the Atlantic coast because the seabed floor elsewhere drops off too quickly to anchor turbines."

Where there is a wind farm, there is sure to be automation.

Just this week, RuggedCom, a provider of rugged communications networking solutions, announced they will be supplying more than $1 million (their largest order ever) in Ethernet switches for a wind farm project in China. Marzio Pozzuoli, President and CEO of RuggedCom says, "For this order, we leveraged our domain expertise in the electric power market and worked closely with a leading manufacturer of wind turbines to tailor our products specifically for wind farm applications. We plan to use this experience and new solution set to further penetrate this growing market."

Last month, SICK STEGMANN published a Guide to Encoder and Motor Feedback Systems for Wind Power Systems. This illustrated guide highlights encoder and motor feedback solutions that deliver maximum reliability in even the most aggressive conditions for both onshore and offshore applications.

In June, Siemens announced building a new plant in Illinois for its Drives Technologies business. Siemens is a large producer of wind turbine gear drives in the United States. The expansion will increase production, enabling the company to meet the expectations of its customers.

In June, ABB announces ACS800-77LC frequency converter for wind generators. "This converter, which transfers AC power from the turbine generator through to the utility or transmission switchgear, also can be configured in various ways to optimize the number of power modules needed, as a function of the wind power or turbine speed/velocity to the generator," notes Ari Hedemaki, product line manager for the product line, ABB Low Voltage Drives, North America.

In March, ABB announced that one of their largest orders in 2007 was to connect German offshore wind farms to power grid. Valued at more than $400 million, the project will use ABB's HVDC Light technology, a high-voltage direct current solution that enables the transmission of large amounts of power underwater and underground, with minimal impact on the environment.

Late last year, Emerson introduced Ovation SCADA for Wind Energy. The Ovation SCADA system features state-of-the-art monitoring, control and diagnostic functionality that optimizes wind farm operations. Earlier in 2007, Emerson won a contract to acquire data from wind farm network in UK. The wide area data gathering system is to connect 19 active wind farms to their corporate headquarters, operations center, and regional centers, all in various locations within the UK.

These are just a few of the wind-related stories we have published on our site in the last year. I hope and expect to see many more automation products and project wins related to wind power. The winds of change will bring new opportunities. We are more than ready for them!

For your reference, here are links to more wind-related information on Automation.com:
  • Wind Generators bring data together with MatrikonOPC

  • Hydraulic Pitch Drives for Wind Energy Turbines

  • Emerson Invests in Energy Responsible Automation

  • Bosch Rexroth educates Pennsylvania Officials on wind power
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