Challenge: How can we measure and control heating systems for wind power plants in a web-based environment?

Wicetec is a Finnish company specialized in providing blade heating systems for ice prevention of wind power plants. 

“Ice prevention of wind turbine blades improves the efficiency of the power plants. Ice accumulating on the blades impairs aerodynamics and can at worst lead to a production stop. Thanks to the systems we supply, wind power generation can be kept stable and turbine blades remain in better condition”, says Wicetec’s technical director Tomas Wallenius.

A spinoff company, born as a result of a research project, initially developed a codebase, which then required remarkable changes in order to be utilized in commercial software products. For the development of heating systems, it was necessary to find a cooperation partner who would be able to produce more modular and scalable code meeting the needs of the company.

“We provide ice prevention systems based on our patented heating element. To operate, the hardware of a heating system requires software and a code based on our configuration for implementing the functionalities, such as ice detection and control activities”, Mr. Wallenius explains.

A project starting as a research initiative has developed up to the level of providing software development for global system deliveries.

Read about the project in brief

Solution: A successful commercial product achieved with development cooperation in remote control and measuring of systems

Protacon provides software development for the WIPS (Wicetec Ice Prevention System) systems and also offers cloud services and equipment support analyses for the needs of Wicetec.

“For Wicetec, we are currently building several systems that slightly differ from each other electrically and in terms of their functionalities. The software used in these systems needs to be highly modular and scalable”, says Protacon’s developer Jussi Ahola about the system requirements.

“Protacon has a clearly defined role and responsibility area in the WIPS application development. Wicetec defines the functional description at a high level while Protacon is responsible for the architectural and software development and implementation. In addition, Protacon supplies auxiliary tools and cloud services as needed”, Mr. Ahola says describing the distribution of roles.

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Application development with clearly defined procedures


An application development process advances via these typical steps: definition, review, scheduling, implementation and testing. This is followed by introduction phases and software testing at Wicetec as well as possible changes and re-testing, if necessary, under real wind power plant conditions.

Over the years, the application has been further developed providing it with comprehensive interfaces and a great number of different fine-tuned features. A large part of the new features comes from various end client requirements.

Protacon’s specialists have a central role in the advancement of the project.

“My own role includes customer coordination, software development and architecture. As customer coordinator, I am constantly updated of the stage of Wicetec projects: I agree upon schedules and resources for development and make amount of work estimations. As architect, I plan the implementation method for future modifications and the long-term development path and work as software team leader in the project. As software developer, I sometimes make modifications myself or create new features”, Mr. Ahola explains.

Strong automation and LabVIEW expertise

Protacon has strong expertise and experience in different measuring and automation systems. In addition, they are able to efficiently utilize National Instruments’ LabVIEW platform in the development.

“LabVIEW offers a very extensive software interface for many different communication buses and supports different design models. National Instruments’ equipment enables high modularity and extended lifecycle. Together, these form a good package for the application needs of Wicetec”, says Mr. Ahola analyzing the solution.

“Protacon is recognized as an experienced automation solution supplier and they have strong expertise in the LabVIEW platform that we use; therefore, the knowhow we needed was immediately available from Protacon”, says Wicetec’s Mr. Wallenius about the competence requirements behind the cooperation.

“Protacon has strong expertise and experience in different measuring and automation systems. In addition, Protacon knows LabVIEW like a back of their hand. Protacon also has complete teams of experts in many other areas, such as WEB and cloud services.”

From a research project to successful commercial software

Wicetec’s research project started already before Protacon was involved in the development. When Protacon joined in as a software development partner, the process was started by modifying the codebase of the old research project to suit the new requirements. 

Quickly after this, the building of the new application basis was started based on a more modular and scalable code. On top of this new architecture, support was built for many new features.

“New features and functionalities are continuously added to the product, which requires an active approach in the application development as well. We make many customer-specific customizations in the features and interfaces of our product, which makes it particularly competitive”, Mr. Wallenius says.

Successful cooperation produces solutions for global deliveries

Lying behind the commercial product is a smooth product development partnership. Protacon provides application updates to Wicetec, who then supplies complete systems further to the wind power parks. Destinations of recent global deliveries include Canada and Sweden.

The cooperation between Wicetec and Protacon is based on fine-tuned procedures and regular communication.

“Our cooperation has been excellent. At times, there may have been challenging schedules but we have succeeded extremely well even with these. Although our common operating procedures are very good already now, we are still considering all potential improvements to further enhance cooperation. The distribution of tasks and roles has worked perfectly enabling us to concentrate on the development work in the application development, for example”, says Protacon’s Jussi Ahola describing the projects carried out together.

Cooperation is considered successful at Wicetec, too.

“Our development cooperation has proceeded very well. Together we have developed procedures, which contribute to the success of the process. Our communication is intense and we meet every month to plan resources and future actions”, says Tomas Wallenius and continues:

“The best thing in our cooperation are Protacon’s specialists on whose expertise we have always been able to rely. Protacon has always offered us excellent service and we have been satisfied, above all, with the fact that they can adapt to our changing resource needs.”

Project in brief

1

On the background, Wicetec’s research project, which was developed into commercial software in cooperation with Protacon.

2

Wicetec is a global provider of blade heating systems for ice prevention of wind power plants.

3

The modular and scalable code developed by Protacon enables easy implementation of new features in the application.

4

Successful cooperation is based on clearly defined roles and established procedures.

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