Contrinex’s inductive sensors stop wind turbines ‘Getting in a Spin’

The unique robustness, reliability and long sensing range of Contrinex’s ‘700 Series’ inductive sensors, available from PLUS Automation, are trusted to provide accurate contactless speed measurement on wind turbines.

Modern wind turbines operate continuously in remote, highly demanding environments. Exceptional reliability is essential as opportunities for maintenance are limited. Turbine rotation velocity is a key operating parameter and manufacturers require robust sensor systems that provide accurate measurement in real-time. Contrinex’s rugged inductive sensors provide presence-sensing systems which withstand harsh exposed conditions, both onshore and offshore, while delivering the required accuracy and reliability.

Customer application

A manufacturer of wind turbines provides engineering support for systems installed around the world. The company’s field-service capability is backed by 24-hour remote data monitoring, allowing early detection of potential problems. Given the remote location of most wind farms, monitoring systems must be exceptionally reliable, as site attendance is infrequent.

Turbine rotation velocity is a key operating parameter, and the company requires robust sensor systems that provide accurate data in real-time. Traditional rotary-encoder technology is unsuitable as sensors do not withstand prolonged exposure to outdoor, often salt-laden, environments. In addition, turbine rotation speeds are relatively low, typically requiring more complex mechanical encoders.

The company requires a simple, contactless system that provides fit-and-forget operation with extended maintenance intervals. Sensors must be mechanically robust and must withstand prolonged exposure to harsh outdoor conditions including seawater. An industry-standard interface is highly desirable to avoid the need for specialised control systems.

Customer solution

Rugged Full Inox stainless steel inductive sensors from the Contrinex ‘700 Series’ are ideal for this application. Highly reliable and rated to IP68 or IP69K, these units provide a cost-effective alternative to tradition rotary-encoder technology.

A one-piece M18-diameter AISI 304 (V2A) stainless-steel body and vacuum-encapsulated electronics make this device particularly suitable for the hostile environment, and the sensing distance of 10 mm allows fully contactless operation. A highly corrosion resistant AISI 316L (V4A) stainless-steel body option is also available for the most demanding environments.

A single sensor is mounted in the turbine head, immediately adjacent to the main mounting ring for the blade assembly. As the blades rotate the mounting ring, the sensor detects the presence of each bolts on the mounting ring as they pass by. Because the angular spacing of the bolts is known, measuring the time between successive signals thus allows the rotation velocity of the blades to be calculated.

The sensor is configured with an industry-standard PNP normally-open interface, and connection to the turbine’s control systems is via an integral M12 connector and PUR-sheathed cable. This allows easy removal and replacement during routine maintenance. The sensor is corrosion-resistant and impervious to water ingress. Reliability has been excellent. Contrinex inductive sensors deliver a cost-effective solution that satisfies the customer’s requirements for a simple, fit-and-forget system.

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