Industrial Protocol Converter for Wind Turbine Systems

Embien has been helping customers across domains by solving their business challenges by leveraging technology effectively. With strong experience in industrial-grade hardware development and industrial network protocol stack development, we are one of the preferred vendors for industrial OEMs and Tier1’s.

Embien is making a unique mark in this segment as well, by developing products such as HMIs, PSTN Network Diallers, Fire Alarm Panel gateways etc. One of our implementations, this case study covers the development of an Industrial Protocol Converter for Wind turbine system to solve some of the prevalent issues in the field such as

  • Difficulty of monitoring of turbines located at far off locations
  • Need for Pre-emptive maintenance
  • High cost of Wind turbine plant upgradation

The below sections will describe in detail the overall Wind Turbine system and our design of the Industrial Protocol Converter.

Wind Turbine System

Our client is a wind turbine system integrator helping to install new turbines and maintaining the same for the Turbine OEM’s. The client is specialized in monitoring the turbines for proper operation and detecting/predicting system failures by integrating various industrial sensors in with the wind turbine system.

As with any field, due to advancements in technologies and expectations of a greener environment, current wind turbine systems are far more advanced compared to the previous generation products. First installed for electricity generation in 1887 in Scotland, today the total installed capacity exceeds 600GW worldwide. With increased complexity and performance, the cost of a wind turbine system is expected to be around 48000$ to 65000$. Further some major technological shifts are happening once every few years. Replacing a wind turbine with the next generation one is not viable and customers rather look for up-gradation.

Nowadays, wind turbines are not just energy producers converting wind energy to electricity with few electro-mechanical systems. Instead they are a complex network of sensors and devices working in tandem that are highly advanced and intelligent enough to produce maximum energy based on the environmental conditions. They have the capability for structural monitoring as well as performance monitoring to bring down the maintenance cost by predicting failures in advance.

All those devices communicate internally over multiple interfaces using different industrial protocols such as CAN, Profibus, etc. SCADA is the communication system used in the wind turbine industry to connect these devices. The below diagram depicts the typical network in a wind turbine system.

Data transmission

If turbine components are allowed to run to failure, the overall energy production is significantly decreased and causes stress on the conventional power plants power grid due to unscheduled downtime. At the same time, the cost of rushed parts and crane operations, collateral damage caused by the failing components leading to additional disruptions, further increases the maintenance costs. So, predictive maintenance is preferred to reactive. To enable this, all the data acquired in the system are pushed to the central server for continuous monitoring of performance and parameters. Advanced analytics applied over the sensor data, environment conditions, and actions are taken in-terms of maintenance warning, alarm warning, shutdown etc. By such continuous monitoring, maintenance costs can be brought down.

Industrial Protocol Converter

As explained above, numerous protocols used for communicating between sensors with-in wind turbine. For example, few sensors such as oil temperature sensor, rotor speed connected in CAN bus, and sensors such as vibration, wind speed connected over Profibus etc. Apart from it, there is a need to monitor the power generated and that is fed to the grid. The underlying protocols and connectivity evolve in each generation of wind turbines. And in some cases, only a part of the overall system is upgraded as overall upgrade costs will be prohibitive. Further large integrators such as our clients have their cloud infrastructure where the acquired data has to be presented.

This calls for a device that can speak to a plethora of networks that provides a seamless interface between the previous generation and next-generation devices. Also, they need to send the collected information to the central cloud and accept commands.

With inputs from the customer, Embien proposed an Industrial Protocol Converter for the Wind turbine systems. This device will be responsible for translating data available in one network format to another. It also provides features to upload data to the cloud and act on commands received from the cloud as well.

Protocol Translation Unit design

Embien designed and delivered a standalone industrial protocol translation unit to bridge communication protocols. With a powerful ARM MCU at its heart, the high-level block diagram of the system is given below.

Data transmission

Having experience in developing industrial protocol stacks such as CANOpen, DeviceNet, EthernetIP, Modbus RTC/TCP, Profibus, etc, right from specification to certification, Embien architected the Protocol Translation Unit design considering the nuanced requirements of the protocols to be supported. As the device is going to be deployed in a remote location, the GSM/GPRS is chosen as the choice of internet connectivity.

Our design also addressed other issues/requirements such as

  • Harsh environmental conditions.
  • Avoid data loss during network unavailability.
  • Recovering from software failures.
  • Over the air update.

As the device could be exposed to extremes of temperature and electro-magnetic surges (lightning etc), our hardware design solution took care of it by having EMI control techniques applied at the component, circuit, and equipment levels such as coating conductors, proper voltage design, using protection diodes and filters on necessary interfaces, etc.

While wrong data is equivalent to failed equipment, no data also implies the same. As the internet connectivity could be disturbed due to various external factors, we have taken care of data loss in the Protocol Translation Unit design by

  • Data backup locally in case of network failure and send the data once network is back.
  • Supporting dual communication path with SIM1 and SIM2.
  • In case of prolonged shutdown of internet, Short messaging service (SMS) support to field engineer and central server system of network loss or failure from turbine system.

Other basic requirements of design such as watchdog timers, data logger, web server-based configuration, remote control support, etc are made part of the system. Over the air (OTA) support was provided to upgrade the device remotely without the need of the service engineer to visit the installation.

With this Industrial Protocol Converter for Wind Turbine Systems, our client can now seamlessly manage their customer installations over the cloud and perform pre-emptive maintenance. This helped reduce their maintenance costs significantly and enable them to acquire new customers – both with legacy installations and for new installations.

About Embien

Since inception, Embien has been helping its customers with industrial product developments and made a mark in it. Whether it be a partial firmware development, or complete system development, our engineers give their best and help customers achieve more than they wanted for. Our expertise includes HMI development on Linux, WinCE and Android, protocol stack development such as CANOpen, DeviceNet, Ethernet/IP, Modbus, etc, Data Acquisition system development, Protocol translators, Building management systems etc. Feel free to get in touch with us to make your next product to bridge older technology with newer ones.