The 210 MW Vankusawade wind farm in Satara, Maharashtra, is situated about 1,150 metres above sea level. R Srinivasan returns with a heady feeling about wind energy, partly due to the altitude.About 350 km away from Mumbai, Suzlon operates, what was at the time of its construction Asia's largest wind park, the 210 MW Vankusawade wind farm in Satara, Maharashtra. As our vehicle trundled uphill through deep red soil pockmarked in some places with watery puddles and began approaching the company's knowledge centre, the gentle humming sound from the lazily turning blades of the windmills became more audible. On one of the lattice wind mills, the blades were stationary and the blade tip had been turned to indicate that it was 'stalled' for maintenance and aerodynamic braking purposes.Vankusawade wind farmThe around 30 km long and 4 km wide wind farm has a total installed capacity of around 210 MW and there are totally 571 turbines (of 350 kW, 600 kW, 1 MW and 1.25 MW capacities) here. It is said that their lifespan is around 20 years and that their productivity differs from model-to-model and site-to-site. This site is considered ideal because of its north-south location since the turbine can take advantage of the wind flow. Also the presence of the Koyna dam and the Arabian Sea (about 60 k away) cause temperatures variations whereby hot air is replaced by cooler winds in a constant cycle.The company's recently-launched prototype S9X suite of turbines has been installed at the Jaisalmer wind farm site. After a look around the scenic wind farm, we headed for the knowledge centre.Knowledge CentreNew trainees to the company, during the basic technical induction programme, are taught about the history of wind power, essentials of wind power, types of wind mills, latest technologies, how a wind turbine generator (WTG) works and how they can be operated to ensure optimum performance and other such details.Although eight states with wind farms have their own centres, the USP of this one is the presence of a fully-functional 1.25 MW simulator turbine and a 1.5 MW one that is being readied for the purpose. The 1.25 MW true-to-life model of the turbine, or simulator, goes beyond traditional classroom sessions and shows the actual functioning of a turbine. The 1.25 MW simulator gives a person an idea of the various components inside a nacelle and their functioning and in this manner supplements the theoretical information gained by engineers during the classroom sessions. There is also a model to exhibit how turbines can be monitored using supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. The actual SCADA systems are used to monitor the state of windmills. For e.g.: Anomalies due to heavy rain can be detected by these systems. Incidentally, the SCADA system at Pune monitors all the turbines in India.On the way back at around 3 pm, the thick mist came floating in towards the vehicle and it became bone-chillingly cold. As our vehicle wound its way downhill, quite a few tourist buses were headed towards the wind farm. It gave rise to a reassuring thought that such technology centres can be used to not only create better engineers with hands-on experience, but also to create greater awareness among the masses about the benefits of wind energy.Windmill fundas
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