Brazil has undergone an evolution in the energy market over the last 10 years, marked by the growth in renewable energies. In the wind segment, the installed capacity has increased from less than 1 GW in 2010 to almost 18 GW in 2020. In one decade, technology has also transformed and its use was spread in all segments. Pioneer in energy transition and recognized for innovation in the electric sector, Neoenergia bets in modernization to provide more efficiency to the operating and maintenance activities for its 17 farms located in the Northeast, adding up a total power of 516 MW and annual production of 2,071 GWh. The 293 wind turbines are monitored remotely, at the Renewables Operation Center (CORE), in Rio de Janeiro, from where they can be powered and six substations can also be managed. In the field, the focus in on the preventive and predictive work, supported by innovative solutions, such as vibration monitoring, drones and thermo cameras.
"In Brazil, we have one of the most technologically advanced operation centers of Iberdrola group in the world, with the most modern operating systems, graphic resolutions, and software on the market. With the centralized operation in CORE, we are able to optimize the management of generation assets, reduce costs, standardize the operation of wind turbines, and meet the network procedures required by regulators, all with the best cybersecurity practices", says Diogo Mariga, Neoenergia's Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Superintendent for Renewables.
At the Core, teams work 24 hours, seven days a week, to monitor the annual energy generation. From Rio de Janeiro, that is, more than 2,000 kilometers away from most of the wind farms, technicians are able to monitor the operation of the turbines and, in the event of a failure, they can intervene to resume operation. The operation center systems also gather business-relevant information, such as atmospheric data and weather forecasts. In addition, the company centralizes the transmission of information to the National System Operator (ONS), the entity responsible for controlling the generation of all of the country's plants in the National Interconnected System (SIN).
There are also operations centers at the wind farms, with the same level of control as the CORE, and which act as a back-up in case of emergency. If necessary, the project's local management is requested to mobilize resources to solve the occurrence in compliance with ONS operation and maintenance procedures, regulatory rules, and Neoenergia's safety and environment policies.
Several maintenance activities are also daily performed in the field. “We prioritize preventive and predictive work, collecting data to anticipate failures and ensure the highest possible efficiency and availability of our wind farms. To this end, we increasingly use technological solutions, such as long-range cameras and drones, which allow us to periodically check the wind turbine blades", explains Diogo.
Drones are also used in the inspection of transmission lines, especially those located in bumpy areas, without the need to move the teams. Lines and substations undergo thermographic inspections, usually on a six-monthly basis, with cameras capable of identifying whether there is any heating point. These and other maintenance tasks enable solutions with more agility and safety for the approximately 66 company employees who work in the plants and offices, including electrical engineers and electrical, electromechanical, mechatronic, and automation technicians.
Safety is one of the main values of Neoenergia. In order to ensure this culture in its assets, the company started to internalize many activities, including preventive, corrective and predictive maintenance in substation equipment, such as transformers. The process will be implemented gradually up to 2023, also achieving a cost reduction that currently is as high as 20%.
Neoenergia's first wind farm, Rio do Fogo (RN),which went into operation in 2006, was also one of the pioneers in the country and the first wind energy project to be encouraged by the Incentive Program for Alternative Energy Sources (Proinfa), the Ministry of Mines and Energy and Eletrobras. Since then, Arizona (RN) and Mel (PB) parks have been inaugurated, in addition to the Calangos (RN), Caetité (BA) and Santa Luzia (PB) complexes. The projects have the capacity to generate enough energy to serve a population of 3.5 million inhabitants, more than that of Brasília (DF).
By 2022, this power will be tripled, with the completion of the new wind complexes of Chafariz (PB) and Oitis (BA and PI), whose management will also be integrated into the Renewable Operations Center. Thus, Core will gain 27 more parks and five substations.