February 21, 2024

Connecting Wind Farms: Making True Mission-Critical Coverage a Breeze

According to the Global Wind Energy Council, annual wind energy installations are expected to double from 78 GW in 2022 to 155 GW in 2027 to bring the global total wind capacity to more than 1,500 GW. With the sector on a fast-growth trajectory and technology set to play a part in making wind energy generation more efficient than ever before, connectivity needs to be a conversation high on the priority list of those in the industry.

Axel Schroeder, Product Line Manager, In-Tunnel Solutions

Wind farm operations need comprehensive and, importantly, consistent communication to be able to make the most of their energy-generating assets. From remote monitoring to predictive maintenance that ensures minimal downtime, there is a need for quality coverage, but what does that look like? In this blog, Axel Schroeder, Head of Vertical Markets at RFS explains. 

Delivering Wind Farm Connectivity

Connectivity to wind farms is an increasingly important aspect of their operation. In fact, the expected expenditure on private cellular networks for the utilities sector is $2 billion between 2023 and 2026. However, there are several aspects that make the deployment of communication infrastructure in wind turbines and across wind farms more challenging. 

The location of wind turbine sites immediately increases the complexity of delivering connectivity. Remote rural sites and off-shore sites mean using standard cellular connectivity is not viable. Instead, there needs to be investment in a private wireless solution to give the coverage needed to operate effectively. 

Additionally, the building materials used to build wind turbines, although essential to ensure longevity, typically pose a challenge to connectivity. Tubular steel for towers, concrete towers on steel supports, and metal mesh reinforcement structures are just some examples of materials that partially or completely block wireless signals. The issue of delivering coverage across the entire site is compounded by equipment inside the wind turbines. From ladders that limit cable mounting locations to generators emitting a significant amount of electromagnetic interference (EMI), achieving comprehensive coverage is not straightforward. 

This means wind turbine operators need to think more carefully about the connectivity infrastructure they deploy to ensure poor coverage does not limit the technological advancements they can take advantage of. 

The Need for Contoured Coverage

Although the challenges to full site coverage mean there is an extra level of consideration needed when selecting communications infrastructure, it does not limit the ability to achieve it. Instead, wind turbine owners need to look at how to deliver contoured coverage. Contoured coverage takes into consideration all potential barriers to connectivity and, by design, uses equipment that works around this to ensure full site coverage. One of the most efficient ways of doing this is to use a solution like RFS’s RADIAFLEX. These radiating cables combine highly reliable communication with a maintenance-free operation and a lifespan that lasts decades. This makes it the ideal option for achieving connectivity that spans the entire height of a wind turbine or gives complete substation coverage in both on-shore and off-shore environments.

Building True Mission-Critical Connectivity 

With wind farm customers, we often find mission-critical connectivity is a high priority, but it is important to emphasize the need to deliver ‘true’ mission-critical connectivity. This means installing infrastructure that has the built-in redundancy and backup features to ensure in almost any eventuality. It is not simply a case of deploying robust infrastructure that works on the right frequencies; it is about ‘bullet-proofing’ infrastructure to make sure that, regardless of environmental factors, there is continuous, reliable coverage. 

The RFS approach 

At RFS, we pull in over a century of expertise in developing equipment that is designed to last and built to continue working in a worst-case scenario. Take as an example our HYBRIFLEX cable, which can include any combination of power wires, optical fiber, and other cables into a single, lightweight, crush-resistant cable. This protects the power supply to remote devices, ensuring we keep continuous power to the network. Customers can also make use of our lowest fire hazard cables that are approved to meet the highest regulatory standards ensuring no burning droplets accelerate a fire or emit toxic gases to further endanger life. For the harsh, rural environments that often play host to wind farms, we can also look at ‘self-healing cable.’ This uses materials that can self-repair minor damage to cable without intervention to ensure long-life deployments regardless of the installation environment. 

There are dozens of ways that infrastructure can be tailored to suit the needs of mission-critical deployments. Our team of experts works with customers to understand the specific risks, look at what that worst-case scenario could be, and put in place equipment that is designed to mitigate the risks. 

Future applications 

With connectivity addressed, it becomes much easier for wind farm operators to take advantage of new technologies to smooth operations and improve efficiency. For example, with the size and number of wind turbines increasing, manual inspections can be made easier using connected drones. With connectivity across the entire wind turbine, it becomes possible to introduce sensors to help keep on top of maintenance requirements before a bigger problem arises, minimizing the cost of repair and turbine downtime. 


With the increased emphasis on the need for renewable energy, we will undoubtedly see a flurry of innovative technologies designed to improve the performance of new and existing wind farms. However, to be able to take full advantage of these opportunities, there needs to be a focus on deploying the connectivity infrastructure needed to underpin them. Getting the connectivity aspect right now is a crucial part of setting up for long-term success.