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The importance of SCADA systems in offshore wind and other applications

Found virtually everywhere in today’s world, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems seamlessly integrate into many aspects of daily life, whether it’s maintaining refrigerators at the local supermarket, tracking energy use in households, or controlling, monitoring and analysing large-scale industrial installations and processes. Published 4 Jul 2024 · 2 min read
Data engineer at work at a computer screen

SCADA systems are used in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, power generation and distribution, water and wastewater management, oil and gas, transportation, building management, security systems, telecommunications, food and beverage, mining, environmental monitoring, and more.

In terms of renewable energy production, and more specifically offshore wind, SCADA can have a major impact on both efficiency and costs.

Why is SCADA used in power systems?

The SCADA system has a critical role to play in managing power systems. It is used to enhance monitoring, control, efficiency, fault management, data analyses, compliance and security, and ensures a reliable and efficient power supply.

SCADA software can be integrated with other management systems, making the entire power system more coordinated and efficient.

How is SCADA used for offshore wind turbines?

The SCADA system is a crucial component of an offshore wind farm. In many ways it acts as the wind farm’s nerve centre, connecting individual turbines, the substation and meteorological stations to a central computer.

This setup allows the operator to monitor and manage the performance of each wind turbine and the entire wind farm. The SCADA system records all activity, enabling the operator to determine what actions to take. It also logs energy output, availability and error signals, providing essential data for analysis to optimise output efficiency.

In addition, the SCADA system ensures that the wind farm meets all grid connection requirements. It controls power production, helps to maintain network voltage and frequency and can limit power output based on instructions from the grid operator. All of this ensures that the wind farm operates smoothly and efficiently within the larger electrical grid.

How does SCADA monitoring work?

A SCADA system consists of both software and hardware. The system is comprised of three main components: human machine interfaces (HMIs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs). The PLCs and RTUs act as microcomputers, gathering data from field devices such as sensors and motors and interacting with both these devices and the HMIs.

The HMIs serve as the interface through which operators monitor and control industrial processes, providing visual representations of sensor data. They play a vital role in facilitating communication between users and automated systems.

With SCADA systems, wind farm operators can monitor systems and processes in real-time and make data-driven decisions accordingly.

SCADA monitoring also instantly alerts operators to any abnormal conditions or potential issues such as wear and tear on equipment, thereby helping to prevent accidents

The SCADA system keeps track of historical data as well, allowing for long-term trend analyses and performance evaluation. This data is also crucial for preventive maintenance, which boosts cost efficiency and safety.