Capturing Wind Energy Safely

Capturing wind energy is full of technical challenges but it also requires a high level of safety. The turbines must operate under harsh conditions, they must be highly reliable, and they must be safe.

Vestas develops wind turbines and is the leader in its domain. It has installed 56 GW of wind energy, which amounts to 40,000 turbines. They generate enough clean energy to power 19 million European households.

wind energy industryA wind turbine is an amazing mix of several domains: industry, aeronautics, energy and offshore/remote management. Safety must be taken into account in all domains. Towers may oscillate due to wind or wave effects, any shutdown must be prevented. Blade bending must be monitored to ensure structural limits are not exceeded. This means that there are many sensors sensors throughout the system to ensure that all conditions are monitored and that a dedicated process must be put in place for development. In order to achieve this level of complexity, a structured development process is needed, from physical modeling to system creation and embedded software development.

At Vestas, a top priority of the development phase was ensuring the safety of their service personnel. A quick-look at the following pictures provides a glimpse into the conditions where they operate, at times quite far from the shore.

vestas wind energy environments

The safety of these systems is becoming more and more complex as the systems evolve to provide better performance, higher power outputs (blades sizes over 80 meters), and increasing safety regulations.

To achieve the need for better control and safety, Vestas chose ANSYS SCADE Suite because it provides the industry standard means of implementing advanced functional safety according to IEC 62061/61508. Vestas has reduced complexity in design and verification, with the ability to provide earlier validation of the safety system. Model-level testing allows for earlier detection of errors The development flow put in place allows to combine the control algorithms for the software and the implementation of Health and Security Environment (HSE) requirements.

Here is the Vestas presentation from the 2013 SCADE User Group Conference (SUGC). You might also be interested in this on-demand webinar. While this webinar presents a customer example of a crane, the certification standard used for wind turbines is the same.