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Perspective | December 2014

Green care makes business sense

Abhijit Kulkarni, Head of Sales-Renewable Business, SKF India, speaks on the range of renewable products and services that his company offers and the global best practices that it adopts.

How do you retain your environmental focus when you offer renewable energy solutions?
We at SKF are convinced that taking care of the natural environment actually makes business sense and is the right thing to do. Now, as we enter into our second century, we see an even greater opportunity - as well as a responsibility - to play a vital role in helping to address these challenges - the global challenges of environmental sustainability.

Keeping in line with this belief we have designed the Beyond Zero Concept. It was launched with two goals in mind:
1.Reduce the negative environmental impact deriving from SKF operations.
2.Increase the positive environmental impact delivered by SKF solutions by innovating and offering new technologies, products and services with enhanced environmental performance characteristics.
Hence, in every solution that SKF designs, we adhere to the concept of Beyond Zero to minimise the effect on the environment from our services and also develop technologies that help OEMs and end-users to reduce environmental impact.

Give us more details on how SKF enables accurate solar tracking so that receptors can track the sun in both vertical and horizontal directions?
Solar tracking can increase a system's efficiency by as much as 40 per cent. SKF is meeting the need for dependable actuation systems (drives) for solar tracking by drawing on our expertise in bearings, seals, lubrication, and mechatronics. SKF offers the following solution for solar tracking:

SKF Solar Hub: Unlike traditional drives, the SKF Solar Hub provides a virtually maintenance-free, reliable, and cost-effective way to track the sun. SKF Solar Hub integrates a self-locking gearbox, bearings, lubricant, and robust sealing solution in a housing for optimal tracking performance in severe outdoor conditions. Using the SKF Solar Hub for the azimuth function can typically increase efficiency by 15-20 per cent vs. a fixed installation.

SKF Solar Linear Actuators: SKF Solar Linear Actuators can help increase efficiency in photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics or concentrating solar power. SKF Solar Linear Actuators reduce solar power generation costs while increasing productivity and profitability. SKF Solar Linear Actuators integrate a screw with gearbox, motor, bearings, lubricant, seals, limit switches, hall sensors and a circuit board. All of these components are protected in a sealed housing for optimal performance even in extreme conditions. Delivering a high static load to dynamic load ratio, the actuator increases the unit's ability to maintain position against high wind loads and limits backlash for accurate, consistent tracking.

What solutions do you provide for increasing wind turbine performance and reliability?
SKF has been working with leading OEMs to optimise turbine performance, reliability and energy output since the industry began. Today, SKF helps wind farm owners, operators and maintenance providers do the same with a range of wind maintenance solutions that can help drive uptime, add value and increase performance at every turbine life-cycle stage.

SKF can help to predict the remaining service life of components with vibration measurement and analysis via remote monitoring, enabling greater machine uptime and much more cost-effective planned maintenance. Together, these SKF Life Cycle Management solutions will help wind farms optimise turbine power output and improve levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

How does your Hamburg-based SKF Intelligence Centre Wind (ICW) operate? Does ICW also service Indian customers?
SKF has installed more than 4,500 SKF WindCon systems in various different wind turbines all around the world. More than 40 turbine models from 17 different OEMs are identified. Those systems are installed mainly in Europe, USA and China, each continent owns its own Remote Diagnostic Service Centre, all of them are interconnected, Hamburg is the Reference one regarding Wind Turbine Monitoring. SKF monitors close to 2,000 wind turbines globally.

Through vibration sensors and the access to the wind turbine control system by means of the SKF WindCon software the health conditions of the turbines are monitored. The WindCon system collects, analyses and compiles the operating data that can be configured by SKF diagnostic experts to suit management, operators or maintenance engineers.

Depending on the agreement with customers and their experience regards condition monitoring, SKF offers different levels of services. Service Level 0 is a 3-month in-depth analysis of the wind park with database set-up creation, establishment of vibration thresholds and fleet analysis, from this the customer can then perform the monitoring activity by himself. With Service level 1 multi-year contract, SKF also takes care of the monitoring tasks. The Wind Park Operator or Service Provider receives event reports in case of any issue with comprehensive conclusions and severity ranking; this is a powerful tool to schedule and prioritise all maintenance activities for the turbines.

Experience shows that Condition Based Maintenance using such services allows significant maintenance costs savings and availability increase for wind parks. SKF can help from the Maintenance Strategy definition till the complete Condition Monitoring Project delivery and via spots services (portable vibration measurements, technical training, etc).

The newest WindCon system is a Web-based system. Authorised personnel can do monitoring from any location with a computer or hand-held device with Internet access. This means surveillance of wind turbines installed in India could easily be done from anywhere in the world. Currently there are discussions ongoing with several Indian customers regards the implementation of the SKF WindCon system.

Give us more details on your SKF BeyondZero concept and its applicability to your renewable energy product offering.
For many years, we have been able to measure, report and reduce the negative environmental impact, such as those associated with energy use, from our own activities in a clear and transparent way. SKF is setting ambitious targets on reducing the negative impact deriving from our operations. However, as the greatest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is with our products and solutions, we increase our focus on applying the full power of SKF Knowledge Engineering; helping our customers address their environmental challenges. With the SKF BeyondZero portfolio we aim to set the standard for how the performance of products and services providing significant environmental benefits can be defined, measured and communicated, even when used in a customer´s application.

What is the rationale behind the SKF Life Cycle Management concept? How does this work for your renewable energy solutions in India?
Industries around the world are starting to realise the importance of effective management of assets throughout their life-cycle which can deliver significant value and reduce total cost of ownership.

Today SKF delivers and offers solutions for various assets like plant & machinery. SKF has been at the heart of machinery since 1907. SKF´s history of providing bearings, seals, lubrication, linear motion, actuation and mechatronics solutions for OEMs in every major industry gives the company a unique depth and breadth of knowledge of industrial assets. From specification, design and development, through to manufacturing and testing, SKF works very closely with OEMs to solve application challenges and deliver world-class solutions globally.

Building on this knowledge, SKF has developed advanced services and technologies to maintain, monitor, repair and optimise assets throughout their operating life. SKF provides the optimum replacement parts at the righttime and helps customers to optimise their asset efficiency.

SKF also closes the SKF Life Cycle Management loop when we channel our ´end user´ knowledge back into the specification phase of next generation equipment. Technologies, such as condition monitoring, can be designed into new OEM assets or retrofitted, constantly improving and providing differentiation in competitive markets, adding value, and extending the possibilities for aftermarket services and enhanced machinery maintenance.

For instance, the focus of the wind industry is to save on cost through a well-planned and executed maintenance strategy and how operations and maintenance can place a major role in the reduction of the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) in this industry. To reach optimal LCOE, smart solutions have to be applied at all stages of the turbine life-cycle. SKF is investing in developing new technology for the wind industry, such as SKF Insight, to provide early information on equipment malfunctioning to ensure the most cost-efficient operation and maintenance procedures. In addition, this information provides feedback when designing the next generations of turbines. This is how the concept of Life Cycle Management applies itself in one of the renewable energy segments.

How do you ensure that you get the right professionals for your renewable energy business?
At SKF, we always aim at getting the right person for the right role from internal and external sources. Renewable energy being a important Business Unit for SKF, we ensure that a detailed job description with the required competencies for the role are clearly defined before we start the search for the right professional for the role. Internal and external applicants undergo a series of rigorous behavioral event interviews and functional interviews with the reporting manager and HR, followed by the final round with the next level. While looking at sourcing for external candidates we ensure that we work with niche consultants who have worked with the wind industry or component industry like SKF which have worked in the wind segment. All external candidates undergo a background check for validation before we make the offer.

How do you train your renewable energy professionals?
When an engineer joins SKF in sales or a technical role, there is a predefined training programme, both classroom and practical. Before the start of the actual training, it is mandatory that each employee who joins SKF undergoes an induction program where employee is made aware of SKF products, systems, processes, applications. During this induction program, speakers from various functions within SKF share their experience with the new employees.

SKF also has a database library where online courses are stored and it is mandatory for each engineer to undergo this course, after each individual course there is a test based on the successful completion of the test, (and) a certificate is awarded. After the completion of the classroom training the engineer joins senior application engineers for customer visits so that he can understand basic skills of customer interaction and make them ready for questions which customers might put ahead in the real world. This process usually takes place for three months. Later after combination of class room + practical training (six months) the engineer is finally ready to handle customers on his own.

During each year, an employee's Internal Development Plan is made and this helps the manager and the individual to understand what are his training needs for the future.

What are the products and services that you offer which will enable more cost-effective wind energy generation?
SKF is designing and developing bearings, seals, condition monitoring systems, and lubrication systems that enable more cost-effective wind energy generation. Working together with original equipment manufacturers and wind farm operators, SKF engineers provide dedicated solutions that can optimise the reliability and performance of new and existing wind turbine designs. SKF has an array of product and services which it offers to the wind energy segment. SKF offers several products and solutions to each application in the wind farm. Mentioned below are the details of the offerings application wise.

Main Shaft: Depending on the individual requirements of the turbine design, SKF can provide solutions for flexible and rigid main shaft bearing arrangements. The solutions offered are SKF Nautilus advanced bearing arrangement, self-aligning bearings, SKF grease, sealing solutions, housings, couplings, shaft validation, large-size induction heaters, condition-based lubrication for wind turbines, WindCon, WindLub, condition based maintenance and engineering consultancy services.

Gear Box: Over the years, SKF engineers have gained a profound understanding of the wind turbine gearbox and the complex conditions under which it must operate. Based on this understanding SKF offers solutions such as SKF high capacity cylindrical roller bearing, SKF separable high capacity cylindrical roller bearing, SKF Explorer spherical roller bearing, high performance tapered roller bearings, bearings with black oxide coating, SKF Wind Gear Box spare kits and WindCon.

Generators: The risk of bearing damage caused by stray currents is very high in variable speed generators. In addition to protecting bearings, SKF solutions can help improve turbine generator performance overall and increase service life. SKF offers SKF XL hybrid deep groove ball bearing, INSOCOAT bearings, SKF Quiet running deep groove ball bearings and similar services like WindLub, WindCon and condition based lubrication for wind turbines.

Pitch & Yaw: When it comes to pitch and yaw bearings, there are no out-of-the-box solutions. SKF slewing bearings can take full advantage of available wind and optimise energy output - while reducing operating costs.

Each solution from SKF to designed to offer maximum productivity and hence contribute effectively to reduce total cost for generating wind energy. It is worth mentioning that maintenance plays a crucial role in wind farms and SKF can contribute majorly in timely maintenance and prevent unplanned breakdowns through its range of condition monitoring services.


-Devarajan Mahadevan
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