4-page Case Study
Posted: 12/1/2009
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AREVA Multibrid GmBH Real-Time Embedded Controller Makes Offshore Wind Power Reliable

Real-Time Embedded Controller Makes Offshore Wind Power Reliable

The wind power industry is booming, driven by global demand for clean, renewable sources of energy. AREVA Multibrid GmbH, a leader in wind power plants, has teamed with Beckhoff, a leader in embedded industrial automation, to solve many of the reliability issues associated with generating wind power at sea. An embedded controller, running the Windows Embedded Compact family and motion control software, has transformed the Multibrid M5000 wind turbine into a fully automated, self-monitoring energy plant. Windows Embedded offers a high-confidence software platform that supports differentiation through innovation and connectivity to enterprise systems. Six M5000 turbines, capable of powering up to 50,000 German households, were recently installed in a North Sea test site, where they reliably and efficiently generate clean energy with predictable service intervals.


Wind energy is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it an attractive alternative to fossil fuels.

The construction of wind farms, however, is not universally welcomed due to their visual impact and other expected effects on the environment. Also, the intermittency of wind can create problems when using wind power to supply a high proportion of total demand.

* The Windows Embedded Compact family delivers hard real-time performance combined with all of the familiarity and power of Windows technology.  *

Bernd Zickert
Team leader Electrical Engineering
AREVA Multibrid

Offshore wind power generation can solve these problems because of the lower environmental impact and steadier winds. But the harsh marine environment and inaccessibility of large-scale offshore wind parks makes reliability a key issue.

AREVA Multibrid GmbH, a leading developer of wind energy turbines, was selected in 2007 to supply 5MW wind energy converters for Alpha Ventus, Germany’s first offshore wind farm. The project is backed by a consortium of three of the country’s leading power companies—Eon, Vattenfall, and EWE. The goal is to install up to 5,000 windmills at more than 20 wind parks in the North Sea and East Sea by 2030. This will supply approximately 25,000 megawatts, or 15 percent of Germany’s current electricity requirements.

“The Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm is located about 45 kilometers north of the island of Borkum,” says Heike Winkler, Public Relations Manager, AREVA Multibrid. “Because of the location in open sea, reliability is the number one decisive factor in the long-term success of the project. The utility companies require a steady flow of power generation, so interruptions are unacceptable.”

Reliability and performance were top system software priorities at the start of the project. Accessibility to offshore wind farms is heavily dependent on weather conditions. It is critical that the equipment operate with long maintenance intervals.

Even under normal operating conditions, the plant equipment is vulnerable to water, salt, weather, extreme temperatures, and more. Operators need a way to constantly monitor plant and equipment conditions, and then control the equipment remotely from onshore, if necessary. Therefore, the measurement, monitoring, and control applications and underlying system software must be very reliable.

Another business requirement is plant efficiency. “In order to maximize efficiency, large wind energy converters require motion control systems to automate electromechanical processes based on wind speed, wind direction, and other physical conditions,” explains Bernd Zickert, Electrical Engineering Team Leader, AREVA Multibrid. “In other words, we need to achieve the best performance at any time and under different wind and weather conditions.”

The scale and lifespan of the project created the demand for a reliable chain of component suppliers with a proven track record of long-term product support.

AREVA Multibrid also had to meet technical requirements for the Alpha Ventus project. The measurement, monitoring, and control systems onboard the turbines need to operate in millisecond cycles. A hard real-time operating system is required to ensure predictability and determinism.

“The utility companies operating offshore wind turbines need support for end-to-end connectivity,” says Zickert. “This allows the PC controller on the turbine to communicate with enterprise information systems onshore for remote control, maintenance, and measurement.”

To accelerate the project development timeline and make it easier to hire qualified developers, AREVA Multibrid was looking for operating system software with powerful, yet familiar development tools and programming languages. Finally, the software had to support the latest international standards in industrial automation.


To build the “brains” of the offshore wind turbines, AREVA Multibrid partnered with Beckhoff, a Microsoft® Gold-Level Windows Embedded Partner that implements open automation systems based on PC Control technology. Beckhoff designs and builds hardware devices in Germany. Their open automation platform “TwinCAT” provides PLC logic, motion and HMI functionality on Microsoft OS platforms.

“As experts in automation and real-time control, we recommended a solution based on Windows Embedded and our CX1020 Embedded PC controller,” says Stefan Hoppe, TwinCAT Product Manager, Beckhoff. “The use of Windows technology allows AREVA Multibrid to standardize on one software platform—from the wind turbine in the sea back to the databases and systems onshore.”

* Because the wind farm is located in open sea, reliability is the number one decisive factor in the long-term success of the project. The utility companies require a steady flow of power generation, so interruptions are unacceptable.  *

Heike Winkler
PR Manager
AREVA Multibrid

The Beckhoff CX1020 Embedded PC Controller boots from Compact Flash and does not require a fan or other rotating components such as disk drive. This robust device is designed for harsh environments, and features direct IO connections to sensors and actuators.
“Like AREVA Multibrid, about 90 percent of our customers take delivery of a standard OS image with hooks for adding their own drivers and extending functionality themselves,” Hoppe says. “One of the major advantages of Windows Embedded is the tool set, which allows our customers to differentiate their devices through innovation.”

Windows Embedded is a validated hard real-time operating system. For AREVA Multibrid, the Windows Embedded Compact family guarantees performance at the cycle times required by the monitoring and Programmable Logic Control (PLC) systems aboard the turbine. For example, the PLC executes up to three tasks in parallel, at 1ms, 10ms, and 100ms cycles.

“Windows Embedded met all of our requirements perfectly,” states Zickert. “It is a small, stable, and scalable real-time OS that is also open to adding PC-like functionality like FTP file transfer and a graphical user interface. The Windows Embedded Compact family delivers hard real-time performance in a componentized form combined with all of the familiarity and power of Windows technology.”

Based on the Windows Embedded Compact family, Beckhoff provides key international standards for industrial automation, including the PLC Open coding language IEC6-1131-3—a global standard for industrial control programming—and OPC-UA (Unified Architecture) for secured, fast communication between industrial automation and the enterprise systems that support the industry. In fact, the first OPC standard resulted from the collaboration of leading worldwide automation suppliers working in cooperation with Microsoft.


Windows Embedded technology delivered important business and technical benefits to AREVA Multibrid. Business benefits included fast time to market and high reliability. Technical benefits included having a single code base for both the embedded real-time PLC application and the end-user applications running on standard desktop PCs, as well as the confidence that comes with the familiarity of Windows and long-term product commitments of Microsoft.

Fast Time to Market
The proven, reliable, and high performance tools and integrated technologies of Windows Embedded enabled AREVA Multibrid to reduce development costs and implement applications faster. Armed with powerful, easy-to-use tools, AREVA Multibrid’s internal software development team quickly completed the first working version of the embedded PC controller.

High Reliability
Windows Embedded is a componentized operating system, which allows developers to build the OS image from the ground up, including only the specific features required to run an application. This approach not only reduces the OS footprint but also minimizes the surface area for attacks. Additionally, the OS requires less security patching since fixes are only required for features included in the OS image.

From a business perspective, the security and robustness of Windows Embedded technology means smoother, more predictable performance.

“The operational and monitoring systems aboard the M5000 operate as intended and expected,” Zickert declares. “The entire control system is fully automated. Real-time measurements of wind speed, direction, air temperature and a myriad of other sensors, are sent to the PC, which controls the actuators of the turbine to achieve greater efficiency. At the onshore remote control room, technicians simply monitor the activities from a Windows-based desktop PC.”

One Development Environment
The Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio® provides AREVA Multibrid with one development environment for creating both embedded and non-embedded applications and experiences.

For example, an integrated equipment condition monitoring system, developed using Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, enables precise analysis of plant components and reliable reporting of any irregularities to onshore systems. This makes efficient long-term planning of servicing possible.

According to Eike Gruenhagen, Software Developer, AREVA Multibrid: “One of the biggest benefits of Windows is having a single code base for writing every application—from the PLC that runs on turbine to the monitoring and control application that runs on any Windows XP machine anywhere in the world.”

* Major advantages of Windows Embedded CE for industrial automation are the model of shared source, low royalties, long term commitment with 10 year support and sophisticated tool set, which allows our customers to differentiate their devices through innovation. *

Stefan Hoppe
TwinCAT Product Manager

Familiar Windows Technology
Familiarity with Windows products and technologies yields benefits for customers.

Fluency with Windows tools and systems at the IT support level breeds confidence for the energy companies that operate the M5000 turbines.

“Most companies base their enterprise systems on Microsoft products, and their IT staffs are generally very comfortable working with Windows technology,” states Gruenhagen.

Long Term Product and Support Commitment
Windows Embedded has a long-term commitment to customer success with products supported for 10 years and available for 15 years.

“The lifecycle of an offshore wind farm is measured in periods of twenty years or more, so all of the key components need to have a similar lifespan,” says Bernd Zickert. “Microsoft’s product and support commitments are critical to our customers.”

AREVA Multibrid and Beckhoff also know that Microsoft will continue to make the latest technology innovations available on the Windows Embedded platform.

“We are anticipating the release of Windows Embedded Compact, including Silverlight™ for Windows Embedded, which will allow us to create rich interactive application UIs incorporating animations and 2D/3D interactions,” says Hoppe. “These platform-independent applications will run on desktop PCs, embedded systems, and browsers, with no more need to compile code – a major productivity boost for us.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 140 employees

Organization Profile

AREVA Multibrid GmbH is a manufacturer of wind energy plants and will supply energy to 50,000 households, meeting 15% of Germany’s electricity requirements by 2030 through 5,000 offshore windmills and 6 offshore wind turbines.

Business Situation
AREVA Multibrid aimed to simplify development and increase reliability of its system remotely controlling the offshore wind farms.

Team with Microsoft partner Beckhoff to implement a turbine controller powered by Windows Embedded CE, Microsoft Visual Studio and the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework that connects with onshore enterprise information systems.

  • Hard real-time measurement of weather conditions
  • Remote management of offshore devices
  • One integrated and connected solution for offshore wind farms and onshore Windows-based enterprise systems

  • Beckhoff CX1020 Embedded PC
  • Intel® Celeron® M ULV, 1 GHz
  • Up to 1GB DDR RAM

Software and Services
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3
  • Microsoft .NET
  • Microsoft Visual Studio

Vertical Industries
  • Manufacturing & Resources
  • Automotive, Industrial Equipment & Aerospace