THE EYE THAT NEVER SLEEPS

EUROPA 50 years ago, Esbjerg harbour in West Jutland in Denmark was the base for hundreds of fishing vessels. Now wind turbine blades, nacelles and towers are dominating the vast harbour areas, waiting to be shipped to new sites in pursuit of more renewable energy.

Vattenfall has been part of this development since 2006 - from an office with just eight people to a busy international and vibrant location housing 74 people from six countries. They are involved in projects like DanTysk, Sandbank and soon the new Horns Rev 3, as well as in the daily operation and maintenance of existing onshore and offshore wind farms. A true bee hive of wind knowledge.

Watchful eyes 24/7
On the first floor of the building, in an office overlooking the harbour area, Jan Jørgensen is in charge of eight people and one of the biggest wind turbine surveillance centres in northern Europe. They have offered 24/7 surveillance since 2008 and are now keeping an eye on a Vattenfall wind power production that has more than doubled since then. For him, being part of Vattenfall’s large wind power expansion is a job that is both exciting and challenging.
“We are on duty 24/7, monitoring both onshore and offshore wind farms, collecting data and making them available to the business. The constant development of Vattenfall’s wind business means that new tasks are being added to our work”.

Since 2002, Vattenfall has invested some five billion euro in wind power, and now the surveillance centre is supplying the trading floors in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Stockholm with vital detailed data on the number of Vattenfall turbines available as well as turbines out of operation due to faults or service.

First line of defence
You could call the surveillance centre Vattenfall’s first line of defence in the never ending battle to keep turbines spinning. In the Swedish mountains and in the 32-metre deep stormy waters of the North Sea, Vattenfall’s wind turbines are defying the forces of nature – these are the environments the surveillance centre has to deal with.

“Apart from safety, availability is the alpha and omega, and when the local people on the sites leave for home, we take over. And when something makes a turbine stop, we immediately try to get it going again. In 2014 we did 2139 restarts of turbines that had stopped outside ordinary working hours for some reason or other. As a result the turbines could produce some 15 million kWh that would otherwise have been lost,” Jan Jørgensen explains.

Safety from a distance
Vattenfall’s wind turbines are spread over vast distances and working on them can be a lonely and dangerous job, even when working in pairs. With Jan Jørgensen’s team it is possible to make sure that information about people working in turbines are gathered in one central place – they call it people tracking.
“The service technicians call us when they enter the turbine, tell us what they are going to do and then call again when they leave the turbine. This is an important safety improvement that was first introduced in onshore turbines in Denmark and Sweden, but now sites in the Netherlands and the UK are contemplating to join the system.”

Everybody wants the software
All surveillance centre tasks are run on Vattenfall-developed software. A team of software developers in the so-called SCADA team from Vattenfall’s office in Fredericia in Denmark has developed the surveillance system from scratch. And several external companies have tried to buy the system.
“The answer is always no,” says Jan. “Our system handles input from some 50 very different types of turbines which makes it unique. Last year some 74,000 alarms and incidents were collected in the system and categorised for instance by downtime due to service and faults, types of faults, etc. This is an incredible gold mine of data that we make available for optimising existing turbines and as experience base for those planning and building new wind farms”.

Putting Esbjerg on the map
According to Head of Generation Wind Nordic, Bent Johansen, who is responsible for the Esbjerg office, Vattenfall’s dedicated investment in wind power has not only been important to the company itself. “Vattenfall has contributed to putting Esbjerg on the map as the energy metropolis, the city aspired to be. We are the biggest in Esbjerg within operation and maintenance and generate a lot of work with sub-suppliers like boat and helicopter services and spare parts suppliers as well as the local blacksmith.”

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