Skip to content

SCADA systems and offshore wind turbines

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are used for controlling, monitoring and analysing industrial devices and processes. When it comes to offshore wind power generation, the system is crucial to optimising the entire operation, both on shore and offshore.Published 4 Jul 2024 · 4 min read

SCADA systems are used for a range of industrial processes, including manufacturing, power generation, water treatment, and oil and gas refining, helping to optimise production, improve efficiency and ensure safety . The systems consist of both software and hardware components and enable remote and onsite data collection from industrial assets.

Given the incredibly harsh environment in which offshore wind farms are located, SCADA systems play a particularly important role, allowing operators to access turbine data and control turbines remotely.

What is a SCADA system?

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 latter two are microcomputers that serve as local collection points for data from field devices such as sensors and motors and interact with these devices and the HMIs.

The HMIs serve as a connection point through which operators can monitor and manage industrial processes. The HMIs provide a visual representation of the data collected from sensors and devices, allowing operators to interpret information from the system. They play a vital role in facilitating communication between users and automated systems.

In renewable energy, SCADA systems can monitor wind speed, water pressure or solar irradiance, helping to optimise production. The SCADA system is also an important part of the power distribution and control centre, helping to monitor and control power output, ensuring a reliable energy supply.

What does SCADA monitor?

In today’s industries, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on processes and control them effectively to ensure optimal performance and cost-efficiency. SCADA systems have been a game-changer for automation, combining advanced sensors, communication networks and powerful software to monitor and control a wide range of industrial processes and infrastructure.

Industrial automation

The manufacturing, oil and gas refining, and water treatment are just some of the industries that use SCADA systems.

Infrastructure management

SCADA systems are used to oversee essential infrastructure, including transportation infrastructure like traffic lights and security systems in buildings.

Remote monitoring and control

SCADA systems allow operators to monitor and control equipment both on site and remotely. This flexibility enables real-time adjustments and ensures a rapid response time.

Data collection and analysis

SCADA systems gather information and data from sensors and devices in the field. The data is then analysed, allowing trends to be spotted and any problems to be identified. Smart decisions can then be made based on solid data and analyses.

Safety and security

SCADA systems play an important role in ensuring operational safety. The system sends early warning about potential equipment failures or safety hazards, helping operators to act before it’s too late. SCADA systems also safeguard cybersecurity.

SCADA for offshore wind farms

SCADA systems play an important role in operating offshore wind installations. The system gathers a variety of data from each turbine and the wind farm as a whole, as well as from the surrounding sea area. Examples of turbine data include wind speed, turbine speed, temperature and power output. Based on these, the SCADA system can adjust the settings to maximise power generation while ensuring safe operations.

SCADA systems collect both real-time and historical data. All the data collected is raw, and it is made understandable by the PLC and RTU.

For offshore wind farms, remote monitoring and control is crucial, as accessing turbines in harsh offshore conditions is hazardous, time-consuming and costly.

SCADA systems can also be combined with other monitoring systems, such as condition monitoring. This allows operators to detect early signs of turbine weakening that occurs over time and enables introduction of proactive maintenance strategies for safe, reliable operations.

Plugging into the grid

SCADA systems are used for grid management, helping to manage the flow of electricity, balance supply and demand, and ensure stability. The system optimises power distribution and ensures the smooth integration of renewable energy into the grid.

SCADA’s limitations and challenges in offshore wind

One of the primary challenges for offshore wind farms is cybersecurity, as the installations are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. A security breach could disrupt operations and compromise data integrity, potentially leading to financial loss, overspeed, equipment damage and energy loss. Although SCADA systems do provide cybersecurity, research has shown that there is much more to be done in this area.

Moreover, the hardware components are subject to harsh offshore conditions and require continual monitoring to ensure reliable data transmission and optimal maintenance. And like most software, SCADA requires systematic updates to keep up with the evolving technology and industry standards in offshore energy.