Terry Knight, Vice President, Bently Nevada, a Baker Hughes BusinessTerry Knight, Vice President
Just a drive through the Great Plains, across the swathes of Central U.S.—from Texas to Montana, and it becomes clear that the increasing demand for clean energy has truly turned out to be an opportunity for the wind power industry to grow strong. Sprawling wind farms with towering wind turbines welcome visitors, with the sound of massive rotors resonating through the air, generating electricity to power whole cities. Recent studies by the American Wind Energy Association reveal that the wind power industry experienced its third strongest year in 2019 as project developers added 9,143 MW of wind power capacity to the grid. On the heels of this activity, 44,000 MW of wind projects—representing over $62 billion in investment—are either under construction or in advanced development.

However, as the industry continues to grow, wind farm owners and operators are struggling to ensure consistent availability of machines and preserve annual energy production (AEP). Besides, avoiding catastrophic failures to keep operations and maintenance (O&M) costs in check has also become imperative. Improving operational efficiency and saving significantly in unscheduled maintenance and repair costs while combating heightened cybersecurity threats can be virtually unachievable without the quick adoption of efficient condition monitoring.

This is where Bently Nevada, a Baker Hughes Business, excels.

With a plant-wide, holistic suite of machine condition monitoring and protection hardware, software, and services backed by over 60 years of industry-leading expertise, the company enables farm owners and operators to achieve the highest level of asset reliability possible. “Our hardware and software help our customers shift from reactive to proactive maintenance,” says Terry Knight, the CEO of Bently Nevada, a Baker Hughes Business. “By detecting issues ahead of time, our customers can plan repairs during the low-wind seasons to ensure their machines are online and making money when the wind is blowing.”

To achieve this, Bently Nevada focuses on three key strategic pillars—connectivity, analytics, and visualization—engineering the ideal solution for wind farm owners and operators.

A Smarter Way to Operate Wind Farms

Bently Nevada’s integrated and scalable condition monitoring solution—System1—enables wind turbine manufacturers as well as wind farm owner-operators to intelligently manage farm assets, increase availability, and reduce operations and maintenance expenses. Being an integral component of the condition-based maintenance methodology, the solution can be applied to any turbine manufacturers’ equipment. “We started with the right sensors at the right locations, which came from our decades of experience in monitoring machines with bearings and gears. We designed hardware specific to wind monitoring, leveraging our experience in data acquisition, signal processing, analytics, and alarm management,” states Knight.

To expand feature sets and capabilities for customers, Bently Nevada has integrated its legacy industry leading ADAPT.Wind software’s capabilities into System1—the company’s premium and industry-leading monitoring, optimization and diagnostic software platform. For nearly 20 years, System1 has been the condition monitoring software of choice for power generation companies operating non-wind assets. Now, Bently Nevada is moving its wind customers over to System1 to equip them with the knowledge and features that the company has developed for other industries; they’re getting a much more comprehensive solution than what most wind-specific condition monitoring companies can afford to deliver.

Costly shutdowns refer to both lost AEP and increased repair costs resulting from reactive repair strategies. With our data, both can be avoided

Data is the Name of the Game

Bently Nevada’s systems can operate autonomously for several weeks at a time and collect data while optimizing the data collection strategy depending on what is being detected, all without external intervention. Knight adds, “We call this edge processing, and it has inherent advantages over those who rely entirely on cloud processing.”

Embedded in the hardware of the solution are over 300 analytical combinations that help detect particular faults within the drivetrain of the wind turbines. These faults can range from gear tooth looseness or breakage to spalling of the bearing races. Instead of getting data a few times a day from a wind turbine, the solutions collect data two times a minute. This data is analyzed for faults, and if none are found, the data is discarded and another sample is taken. However, when an issue is found, the data is retained and stored for further review by an engineer. Also, Bently Nevada’s experienced machinery diagnostic engineers monitor and validate alarms from customers’ machines through their remote monitoring services.

In an instance, a Bently Nevada Machinery Diagnostic Services (MDS) team at its Remote Monitoring Center (RMC) noted a sideband energy ratio (SER) alarm from the ADAPT.Wind software on a customer’s 2 MW wind turbine. The high-resolution spectral data showed the emergence of significant sideband activity around the gear meshing frequency peaks spaced at high speed intermediate shaft (HSIS) pinion speed. With the Supporting Services Agreement (SSA) in place, the remote MDS personnel recommended that the customer promptly perform a borescope inspection of the stage 2 gears. As expected, the review confirmed tooth cracks and fractures on the stage 2 HSIS pinion gear. With close monitoring of the gearbox, production was continued until repairs could be made up tower. Repairs consisted of replacing the intermediate shaft (IMS) and the high-speed shaft (HSS) assemblies. Bently Nevada’s enhanced maintenance planning allowed for the avoidance of unexpected downtime and collateral damage while saving the customer approximately $50,000 in additional repair costs and lost production.

Since Bently Nevada offers solutions to numerous customers across multiple industries, they’re able to make much more significant investments in the capabilities of the software. By providing the customers with data, Bently Nevada helps them preserve the integrity of their machines. This means detecting issues before they cause catastrophic damage or complete loss of the asset. Knight informs, “Costly shutdowns refer to both lost AEP and increased repair costs resulting from reactive repair strategies. With our data, both can be avoided.”

Beyond Delivering Advanced Condition Monitoring Systems

What steers Bently Nevada ahead of the competition is its global footprint and the balance that it maintains between edge and cloud processing. “We perform a lot of processing at the edge so that we don’t have to move such large volumes of data to the cloud,” adds Knight. On the contrary, other condition monitoring companies are limited to less frequent data collection due to relying heavily on data processing in the cloud. However, Knight poses an important question: what happens when connectivity to the cloud is lost? Without edge processing, operators won’t be able to collect data or create alarms.

“Some argue it’s cheaper to have lightweight hardware on the edge and perform processing in the cloud, but what about the huge cost of a missed detection? Often you are unaware of the anomalies and the imminent problems that can arise,” notes Knight.
In the wind industry, a missed detection can be the difference between a $10,000 repair and a $300,000 major component replacement. “Is $1000 in upfront hardware savings worth the risk?” This is the sole reason why Bently Nevada has been following this approach of edge processing to ensure consistent outcomes.

“By detecting issues ahead of time, our customers can plan repairs during the low-wind seasons to ensure their machines are online and making money when the wind is blowing.”

Bently Nevada’s commitment to excellence goes beyond delivering advanced condition monitoring systems; the company is also keenly focused on preserving the integrity of clients’ machines and the safety of their personnel. Knight emphasizes, “Those who use Bently Nevada for machine protection applications put a lot of trust in our products to detect issues and trigger safe shutdowns of their machines. Machine protection is a serious business. It requires excellence from start to finish—from design to manufacturing to commissioning. While many companies may claim excellence, we live it.” With such robust capabilities, Bently Nevada is also catering to customers that are eager to adopt its solutions due to their experience with the company on other types of power plants—particularly the oil and gas companies that are broadening their portfolios by investing in offshore wind power.

Offering a Holistic View of Turbine Health

Having carved a unique niche, Bently Nevada believes that three major trends will considerably impact the wind power industry, and the company is all set to embrace the trends and evolve.

Firstly, there will be an increased need to comply with cybersecurity guidelines. Knight goes on to mention that the January 1st, 2020 compliance deadline for Low Impact Rating power producers (those with less than 1500MW connected to a single interconnect) and compliance with cyber security guidelines, such as those defined by the National Electric Reliability Council (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP 7 and CIP 9) standards, are significantly raising the bar on security.

To this end, Bently Nevada’s hardware and software solutions are capable of addressing the security risks around clients’ data with cutting-edge technology. Further, the company’s System1 platform has been developed by leveraging more than 20 years of industry software expertise and customer feedback, drawing on more than 60 years of innovation in condition monitoring. This enables the company to look ahead and architect advanced cybersecurity features into its hardware and software platforms to protect all sides of a customer’s business.

As the industry advances, there will also be a move toward larger direct-drive turbines with permanent magnet generators, which will result in incorporating new monitoring technologies, such as generator air gap monitoring. “We have experience with these measurements, and as such, we’re well-positioned to meet these emerging needs,” Knight remarks. Lastly, some manufacturers are gravitating toward gearboxes that use journal bearings instead of rolling element bearings. Again, these bearings require different monitoring technologies. For instance, proximity probe technology, which Bently Nevada pioneered 60 years ago, is well-suited for these applications. “As the demand for renewable energy resources continues to rise, the value of condition monitoring is only going to increase. We expect to see the need for additional condition monitoring measurements, such as oil debris, soon. Our System1 software is primed to become the standard in the industry with vibration and other measurements to provide a more holistic view of turbine health,” concludes Knight.