Using industrial Ethernet switches to assure maximum uptime
A high-speed, industrial-grade network infrastructure offers wind farm operators many benefits, including improved operational management, visibility and access to key data. Real-time data access enables operators to monitor wind turbine uptime, performance and power output – even from remote locations. This data, which is used to track power generation efficiency and trends, provides predictive information that is critical to “Smart Grid” technology. After describing a typical wind farm environment, this piece will explore six best practices that should be considered for effective wind farm operation.
The wind farm environment
Wind farms operate under conditions typically unsuitable for traditional networking equipment. As such, standard commercial-grade switches and routers designed for climate-controlled data centres and wiring closets should not be used in outdoor locations. They are unable to withstand harsh environments subject to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, vibration, dust and electromagnetic interference from power generation equipment and high voltage transmission lines common to most grid-connected wind farm environments.
Since every kilowatt that a wind generator produces is sold to consumers, network interruptions and downtime result in lost revenue and cannot be tolerated. To avoid the threat of costly maintenance and lost revenue, wind farm operators should deploy reliable, fault-tolerant devices with extended mean time between failure (MTBF) rates. MTBF rates are important because labour expenses are greater in the field compared to labour expenses in the IT world. Even the simplest of switches can be expensive to replace in remote, hard to reach locations.
Why industrial-grade networking?
For effective wind farm operation, complexity and extreme conditions must be taken into consideration. Industrial-grade networking solutions have been designed for extremely rugged environments. In addition to handling harsh conditions and fluctuating temperatures typical of outdoor locations, industrial switches provide highly deterministic performance, which means the data gets from the origin to the destination as rapidly as possible. This proactively guards against failure while maximising uptime. Built-in redundancy helps to eliminate unexpected points of failures that can negatively impact performance and increase maintenance costs. Designed to protect the infrastructure investment, industrial-grade networks support multiple