Our design and deployment of wind farm digital infrastructure

Renewable energy is the future. The wind turbines that live in harsh conditions need to be powered by secure servers that can withstand the demands placed upon them - while increasing capacity and keeping cyber attacks at bay.

5 minutes

4th of October, 2023

Our teams design and deploy the infrastructure that breathes new life into the wind energy industry. We are in charge of architecting, designing and developing the technological platforms that support the subsystems controlling on-shore and offshore wind farms in the US, China, and off the coast of England. 

Some of these wind farms have over 100 turbines. We’ve developed the infrastructure that allows them to increase capacity and resources, be more secure, and remain safeguarded for the future. 

Supersizing seven subsystems

“We were tasked with improving the server infrastructure for the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system,” says Rafael Pazos, Operation Leader on the project who is also an infrastructure architect and security expert. SCADA  is a way of controlling industrial processes - including the renewable energy sector - using software applications. 

This system supervises, controls and acquires data from turbines and wind farms globally. It enables you to identify overall performance, examine causes of production loss, and maintain the health of individual turbines. 

The teams had to design and develop the platforms for seven subsystems: 

Wind Power Supervisor (WPS). A web-based SCADA system that collects data from turbines, grid stations, and meteorology stations.

High Performance Park Pilot (HPPP). The primary purpose of the HPPP is to control active and reactive power generated by the turbines. 

Wind Power Service Operations Manager (WPSOM). This platform conducts digital service and maintenance activities on disconnected wind power plants.

WPMA. Which interacts with the WPSOM to collect data and execute actions in windparks. 

WPSDB. This subsystem centralizes all of the data of the wind park. 

Turbine Condition Monitoring (TCM). The TCM monitors the external conditions of the turbine - including wind speed, bird migration, shadow generation and vibration. 

STIC Small turbine interface controller. The STIC subsystem controls the basic functionality of a wind turbine

These subsystems, says Rafael, contain “a huge amount of information” and the first step for the team was to demonstrate that the proof of concept (POC) worked and that the updates to these seven systems worked harmoniously and in concert. 

Rafael is in charge of the team that is leading the server, network, and automation environment. He oversees development teams throughout Europe - including the UK, Denmark and Germany - and in India. The developments to the subsystems that he managed have, he says, “not only improved the security in the environment from hacking or recovering from damage - but we have also increased the power delivery.” The communications between turbines and grids have been vastly improved. 

Built to better deal with disaster

Wind Farms exist in harsh environments. Not only are they at the mercy of the elements - extreme temperatures, dust, shocks, soaking - but they are also at risk from cyber attackers looking to disrupt the energy supply. Turbines, and the systems that govern them, need to be sturdy enough to withstand threats from all angles. 

The platform our team created, which the subsystems run on, included: a VMware cluster for the generation of virtual machines; over 30 Windows and Linux virtual servers supporting the seven subsystems; digital certificates for the encryption of communication within the infrastructure; and cyber security and ‘hardening’ work to protect the infrastructure against malicious attacks. 

This installation and configuration of this platform and other scripts, says Rafael, means that the platform is recovered “in the event of a disaster in any of the components.” If any of the devices fail, he adds, “the others will take responsibility to maintain the system.”

They test this software along with “a small version” of the hardware. Satisfied that everything works as it should, Rafael and the team “deliver the information to the test team in Denmark.” This team then assesses the new system on a physical turbine. 

Sometimes they will need to do further upgrades and iron out any kinks - once approved and sufficiently tested the team in Denmark “deliver the new solution to servicing who update the system park side. From here, we act as third level support.”

Automation will breathe new life into wind farms worldwide

The team works under an agile methodology. In software development terms, agile practices mean improvements are made through self-organized and cross-functional teams. The focus is more on new functionality, rather than the maintenance of existing software systems. It means, highlights Rafael, that “there are multiple product owners when we receive ‘epics’ - a major task - and those agile epic tasks get divided into multiple subtasks.”

This agility and focus on creating new functionality has seen the developers moving towards automation: a Version 3 of the infrastructure. This, he says, is “a total change from what was being done before.” 

These changes in automation will be orchestrated through Ansible - an open-source suite of software tools that allows infrastructure as code, enabling it to carry out sophisticated IT tasks with limited manual involvement. 

Moving from “a deployment where there was a lot of human error,” says Rafael, “to one with little or no intervention will minimize deployment times and increase the quality of the installation. Any new devices can be installed automatically: you run a script and it creates everything you need.”

It’s a high-tech, 21st Century way of harnessing a natural power - wind - that has existed for four and half billion years. Akkodis are sure to be at the forefront of developing the technology that benefits from such power for years to come. 

We work on all kinds of projects - from automotive and aerospace to defense and clean energy. To find out more about our first-class opportunities for career development, get in touch today.


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