Vaisala strikes lightning data deal to protect wind energy farms in North America

Vaisala strikes lightning data deal to protect wind energy farms in North America

Apr 5, 2016
Cleanweb & IoT
Renewables & smart grid
Wind energy

Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement, has signed a 3-year contract with leading independent power company, Pattern Energy Group Inc. (Pattern Energy), to supply access to historical and real-time lightning data for ten wind farms in North America. 

The data will be used by Pattern Energy, which operates an expanding portfolio of wind energy projects in the lightning-prone central U.S. and Canada between Texas and Ontario, to optimise blade inspection and repair programs and combat one of the most common causes of turbine downtime in the wind energy industry.

During the 3-year contract signed with Vaisala, Pattern Energy will benefit from access to the Fault Analysis Lightning Location System (FALLS), a unique tool that allows utilities and project operators to overlay the locations of project infrastructure with correlating lightning activity on an interactive map.

The system, which makes use of real-time data from Vaisala's unmatched North American Lightning Detection Network (NALDN), will allow Pattern Energy to pinpoint the location of recent and historic lightning strikes at its sites in order to determine exactly which turbines have been affected and the extent of the damage.

In doing so, Pattern Energy will not only be able to spot blade damage early, mitigating the risk of further and more severe damage in the long-term, but also reduce inspection and repair costs, while keeping project downtime to a minimum. Ultimately, this information will also enable Pattern Energy to start modeling and anticipating future damage, with applications for optimising both existing O&M efforts and potentially even site design.

"For Pattern Energy, it's certainly a case of 'looking back to move forward. By conducting a thorough assessment of historic cases using Vaisala's extensive database of lightning activity, Pattern Energy's operations team is setting a new standard for the mitigation of lightning risks," says Remus Zaharescu, Global Manager of Energy Sales at Vaisala.

"While there is no way to eliminate the risk of lightning, FALLS has helped us look back and quickly assess turbine damage, enabling us to determine whether lightning truly caused damage and exactly when that damage occurred. This saves a great deal of time and effort when it comes to blade inspections as well as huge costs," Ben Rice, Operations Engineering Manager at Pattern Energy, says.

"The repair cost for a blade is tens of thousands of dollars, while replacement is in the hundreds of thousands. By comparison, the annual cost for Vaisala's data across our entire wind fleet is a small fraction of what we would spend to replace a single blade replacement so it clearly pays for itself and is well worth the investment."

Vaisala FALLS is used by 80% of the top revenue-generating utilities in the United States. It is also incorporated into the operations of electric utilities in 15 countries worldwide. The NALDN lightning network in the United States and Canada is complemented by Vaisala's GLD360 Global Lightning Dataset, a service that provides real-time lightning data for accurate and early detection of severe weather worldwide.

Image: Vaisala
Source: Vaisala

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