In response to spiraling gas prices, the urgent need for increasing wind farm output in the UK has placed significant pressure on the renewable energy sector to ramp up operations.
Already facing financial, planning and logistical challenges regarding the siting and commissioning of the latest generation of turbines, operators expect significant build-up in the requirement for new windfarms, particularly offshore, as the UK government increases the importance of ensuring adequate capacity of renewable power generation for the nation’s future energy security, whilst reducing its dependence on fossil fuel power stations.
For example, the 3.6GW (Giga Watt) Dogger Bank Wind Farm, currently under construction 130km off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea, will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm when all three phases are operational by 2026. Once online, this wind farm will be capable of producing 5% of the UK’s total energy demand, which is enough to power six million households.
In Suffolk, the Ness Point wind turbine in Lowestoft, which started operating in 2005, is the UK’s tallest wind turbine at 126m from tower base to blade tip. It’s capable of producing 2.75MW (Mega Watt) of electricity, which can supply over 1500 homes and save in excess of 6000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Turbine technology has advanced massively, however and the latest machines are double the height and capable of generating up to 14MW of electricity per turbine. These world-beating wind generators have been selected for Dogger Bank C, the final 1.2GW phase of the project. Just one of these turbines saves up to 52,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to the emissions from 11,000 cars.
In the context of tower construction and turbine maintenance, Atlas Copco is the world’s leading innovator of industrial assembly tools and data solutions, that’s focused on helping operator partners to manage these challenges, as well as delivering competitive advantages in efficiency, reducing risk, time on task and ultimately, costs.
Atlas Copco is experiencing rising demand for its smart integrated bolting solutions, as bigger turbines come on stream. Particularly in regard to offshore wind farms, there is a need to tighten larger bolts in more extreme environments, as well ensuring improved operational efficiency and faster installation.
On a mission to apply its evolved Smart Integrated Assembly approach in the field, Atlas Copco has pioneered a number of transducerised tools and data driven systems which, thanks to in-built cloud connectivity, has made it possible for a fully traceable process to be effective at remote installations.
The SRB HA Smart and Connected battery-powered nutrunners feature an internal WIFI server, allowing the tools to be linked to any mobile device. This enables torque, angle and batch data collection without the need for additional software. For the ultimate in functionality and process control, the SRB HA features an accessory bus for a barcode scanner and can also be integrated into overlying systems for live data feed and analysis. Powered by Lithium-Ion 36V battery technology, the SRB HA will see an increase in torque capability from a maximum of 4,000Nm up to 7,000Nm in the near future.
The Tensor Revo HA was designed specifically for use in the construction and maintenance of turbines, where access to joints is tight. Delivering tightening performance of up to 8000Nm with future plans for an increase up to 16000Nm, its DC electric motor is the fastest on the market by up to 6 times and also features an integrated torque transducer, which measures real torque applied to the joint. To ensure error-proofing, the Tensor Revo HA has a signal light incorporated in the motor housing, indicating green for ‘tightening OK’ and red for ‘fail’. Its high torque, slim gearbox with 360° gear swivel enables access to the trickiest bolt locations.
Working on increasingly larger turbines is extremely hazardous, so Atlas Copco’s ergonomically designed safety triggers mean there’s no risk of finger pinch points, whilst low noise and vibration levels means operators can work more safely and comfortably both outside and inside the turbine.
Atlas Copco’s tools provide superior speeds to shorten cycle times, resulting in faster tower builds and reduced project time. Years of research and development have resulted in proven motor performance, which overcomes the issue of overheating whilst operating in challenging environments. In addition, Atlas Copco tools can be used for the full tightening sequence to include final torquing of bolts. Other tools on the market are only used as run up tools, meaning that final torque has to be completed with other tool types, which makes the process longer and more complex.
Not only does the torque transducer measure the real torque but angle measurement ensures each bolt is tightened correctly by detecting damaged threads or variation in lubrication. All bolt tightening data can be downloaded and linked to bar codes or identifiers. Even graphical traces of the actual tightening can be stored for later analysis.
Recognising the difficulties and limitations of working in remote and often climatically hostile environments, Atlas Copco continues to develop its product portfolio in line with customer requirements. Its latest addition is the PFXC (Power Focus Cross-Country) power pack, which delivers an industry-leading power capacity in the field. Featuring rugged waterproof construction and robust metal framing that’s built to withstand the harshest conditions, the unit can be easily transported to site.
In order to have a truly connected and efficient system it is critical that all bolting technologies (hydraulic torque, bolt tensioning, continuous rotation) have one common user interface, both for operational process control and data analysis. Users can instantly connect tools to the power pack with any WiFi device via the QR Code and programme in presets, such as target torque, method and speed. Combined with smart technologies, the PFXC provides the functionality for instant tightening data, so that field operatives know that the process is being completed correctly first time out, saving time, money and vastly increasing safety.
Commenting on its innovations in support of the wind energy sector, Matt Jenner, Business Line Manager General Industry for Atlas Copco Tools & Industrial Assembly Solutions, said:
“Within the energy segment, Atlas Copco continues to raise the bar higher. When it comes to brand reputation, operators need to get it right first time and the demand for error-proofing is high from both a safety and cost perspective. Our latest tooling and controllers enable Atlas Copco to take its Smart Integrated Assembly principles directly into the field. This delivers a clear return on investment and full traceability, by blending advanced tooling with data driven services, backed up by total customer support.”
To find out more about SRB HA, Tensor Revo HA and other Atlas Copco applications for the wind energy sector, please click HERE