BP plc is a British multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London, England. One of the company's subsidiaries, bp Alternative Energy, was looking for a way to protect the critical infrastructure, including access to the turbines at its wind farms in the U.S.
Wind farms are inherently difficult to provide security to as many properties include dozens or hundreds of large and powerful wind turbines over a sprawling amount of remote acreage. As a potential target threat to thieves, access to the turbine and the sensitive information it records need to be protected.
As one of the leaders in the clean energy industry, bp Alternative Energy has utilized about 1,200 of ABLOY USA Critical Infrastructure padlocks since 2008 to secure nine of its wind farm properties across four states. A majority of the locks employed at the wind farms are the rugged PL340 series padlock with secured exec keyways.
When it comes to critical infrastructure locations, not all padlocks are created equal as locations often have challenging conditions and elements to withstand. Stewart Whitman, the Performance Manager for bp’s Flat Ridge 1 Wind Farm in Isabel, Kansas, says there were several challenges to finding the right padlock before choosing ABLOY as their critical infrastructure source.
“We were looking for a lock that was extremely secure while performing well under a variety of demanding conditions,” he said. In addition to most wind farms being located in remote areas, there is the range of weather conditions they are subjected to. The bp Alternative Energy properties experience the entire gamut, from the snow and sub-freezing conditions near the mountains to the hot and dry conditions across the Kansas plains and in Indiana, where more than one-third of the locks are in use.
With continuously updated and stricter NERC regulations to deal with, having the right padlock is a necessity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, wind power capacity has grown 15% per year over the past 10 years and wind has become the largest source of renewable power in the United States. The sector’s job growth continues to increase as well, with industry reports indicating it may employ more than 600,000 workers by 2050 as the demand for sustainable resources rises.
ABLOY PL340 padlocks are designed and manufactured to meet ANSI standards, and are constructed from case hardened boron steel and tested under extreme conditions. The majority of the padlocks at the bp Alternative Energy wind farms have shackle lengths of either one or two-inches.
“It’s difficult to find a quality, very secure padlock that are keyed alike, in the numbers we require,” explained Whitman, a 15-year wind industry veteran who has worked for bp Alternative Energy for the last 10 years. “But not all of the padlocks we have are keyed alike.”
At Whitman’s Flat Ridge 1 farm about 80 miles west of Wichita, he has stationed 20 locks on the turbines and two dozen on the j-boxes. The junction boxes are collection system cabinets where the power cables are joined to the turbine.
“In addition to the ABLOY locks on the turbines and j-boxes,” said Whitman, “we have them on the MET (Meteorlogical Evaluation Towers) access gates and storage connexes.”
Whitman continued, “In the five years I’ve managed this farm, we’ve only replaced one lock due to a malfunction. Some of the locks may go over a year without being opened. Others such as the turbine door locks are opened a minimum of every three months.”