South African company Etion Create has been selected as one of the preferred suppliers for the Sofia offshore wind farm project in the United Kingdom, one of the largest in the world.
Etion Create, an original design manufacturer of advanced electronics equipment based in Centurion outside Pretoria, is set to supply its proven VF360 OpenVPX boards for the core computing units installed in the Sofia wind farm project.
GE Grid Solutions, consortium lead on the project, specifically required high-performance VPX based digital signal processing (DSP) technology. Etion Create’s VF360 unit provides this technology at the heart of the core computing units (CCUs) of GE Grid Solutions’ world-class eLumina high voltage direct current (HVDC) control system. The HVDC electrical transmission system that GE will supply relies on specialised DSP and high-reliability VPX technologies for its control and protection systems to ensure maximum system availability.
Etion Create System Engineer Piet du Toit explains, “In plain terms, digital signal processing is typically used in application-specific processors or computers for real-time floating point calculations. DSP has a high level of accuracy, which is required in high performance computing platforms such as GE’s eLumina HVDC control system CCUs.”
Etion Create has been supplying and supporting its VF360 OpenVPX module to GE Grid Solutions since the early stages of the eLumina project.
The Sofia offshore wind farm is being constructed 200 kms off the UK coast in the area known as the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. The wind farm is 100% owned by German utility RWE, one of the world’s biggest players in offshore wind power and the UK’s second largest generator of electricity. By 2022, RWE plans to invest €5 billion in the continued expansion of renewable energy.
“Etion Create has extensive experience in designing and manufacturing products for harsh environments; the company has been associated with defence and aerospace products for decades,” says du Toit. “We believe our track record as a trusted supplier of innovative electronic technology for more than 20 years counted in our favour when GE Grid Solutions sought the required OpenVPX DSP technology that we have developed as part of our portfolio.”
He notes Etion Create’s involvement in several key defence programmes in South Africa, such as the Rooivalk attack helicopter and Mokopa missile, as well as optical helmet-mounted tracking systems for Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters.
Etion Create’s VF360 OpenVPX board is designed and manufactured at the company’s state-of-the-art facilities in Pretoria. This versatile and proven product forms part of the control and protection cubicles in GE’s eLumina control system.
In essence, the eLumina control system is integral to GE’s two HVDC converter stations in the Sofia project which transmits up to 1 400 MW over 220 kms from the offshore wind farm to the onshore Teesside station. The offshore HVDC station converts ac voltage to 320 kV dc voltage and the onshore station does the reverse, from dc to ac voltage, before connecting to the national grid. Thus, the control system is part of a large smart grid infrastructure solution where low-loss power transmission over long distances is of utmost importance.
Offshore wind farms, like the UK’s Sofia project, are typical users of this technology. Etion Create is therefore well positioned with its VF360 product as a key component in the HVDC transmission control system for similar projects GE has lined up over the next decade.
As an original design manufacturer (ODM) with international market reach and client base, Etion Create provides OpenVPX solutions to the high-end renewable energy and other high-reliability industry markets, a globally expanding environment. The company prides itself on ISO certified project management and professional system engineering processes.