The opportunity of digitalization to build the wind power sector and accelerate the energy transition
By Jamie Stapleton, Global Digital Wallet Leader, Hitachi Energy
Digitalization has transformed the electricity sector over the past two decades. Whether it’s lower monthly utility bills, reduced outages, or faster response times, this has enabled greater transparency in operations and increased efficiency and reliability while lowering costs. However, in order to achieve sustainability goals, this trend must translate into an undeniably beneficial wind sector, from widespread construction of wind farms to O&M, to reduce costs and financial risks while accelerating the energy transition. .
Globally, momentum around offshore wind farms is building. President Biden’s $230 million investment in port and intermodal projects — including the first major offshore wind farm to bring electricity to New York City — is clear evidence of this. However, this offshore wind farm only has a total of 12 turbines. In contrast, Europe has 5,000. The United States needs more wind power to accelerate the energy transition.
In the wind energy sector, digital applications will help transform the way wind energy is planned, monitored and managed. From wind energy forecasting to wind farm monitoring and workforce management, understanding the role of digitalization in all aspects of wind farm management will be key to driving sustainability and the development.
A global opportunity for wind power
Consider this: in 2019, wind and hydro each accounted for 35% of total electricity produced from renewable sources in Europe. These are impressive statistics, but to achieve the EU’s goal of completely decarbonising the electricity sector by 2045, wind energy must account for 50% of EU electricity, according to the European Commission. In total, renewable energies will represent 80% of this mix. It is no longer a question of when. To put these plans into action, a rapid acceleration must take place.
The amount of wind-generated electricity has increased dramatically in the United States, with total electricity generated annually rising from approximately 6 billion kWh to 338 billion kWh over the past 20 years. These advances are impressive and have already reduced the cost of generating electricity from wind, but there is a global opportunity to dramatically accelerate this growth. In order to reach the ambitious goal of 30 GW of offshore wind power along each coastline by 2030, changes need to be made and digitalization can help.
With a greater focus on the technologies that power wind farms, such as real-time analytics and a move towards proactive analytics, we have the potential to further reduce costs and strengthen sustainability measures. This is a truly global challenge and an opportunity to revitalize the way we build our global wind economy.
The technologies that fuel digitalization
Key technologies are powering the digitization of wind energy today, including centralized data centers, 5G, descriptive/diagnostic analytics, proactive predictive analytics, and automation. In the United States, the incorporation of these technologies will improve wind energy production – from the manufacture and construction of wind turbines to the integration of systems and the operation and maintenance of wind farms. .
- Real-time analysis of operational processes within a centralized data center like the turbine-generated SCADA system improves wind farm control by automatically detecting technical faults and making recommendations for corrective action. This allows wind farm operators to avoid costs related to operational blockages and damage. For example, when a gust of wind hits one end of a wind farm, real-time monitoring allows the turbines to be adjusted to maximize its effect before that gust hits the other end of the farm.
- Another technology enabling digital applications to reach their full potential in the wind sector is 5G. These 5G networks are introduced through IoT and IIoT connections between systems, powered by high-speed wireless Internet services and data services delivered through a wireless LAN or wireless wide area network. These gateways can obtain data from wind turbine sensors and share this data with engineers and control centers in the field.
- Descriptive analytics offer another layer of information as they research and summarize historical data to identify patterns and meaning and provide data about past events. Combined with diagnostic analyses, these systems enable event and alarm triggering processes. Descriptive and diagnostic analytics share the what and why of current and historical data, which can help track system failures – from wind turbine power failure to structural disasters.
- By moving from reactive to proactive analysis, the wind industry will have the ability to predict wind turbine outcomes and performance before they happen, focusing on real-time data monitoring and analysis. events. By adjusting conditions before this critical moment, experts and engineers can stop a crisis in its tracks, protecting the functionality of existing turbines and enabling the potential for expansion.
- Finally, the importance of automation cannot be underestimated. With robotic process automation, machines can be tasked with replicating human-directed tasks, improving manufacturing accuracy, reducing human error, and speeding up repetitive industrial operations.
Together, these technologies prevent the possibility of error, enable better functionality and improve the overall outlook for the wind industry.
The critical role of data
The last major step to accelerate the energy transition within the wind industry will be the establishment of a wind data standard.
Incorporation would enable data sharing across the industry, from turbine manufacturers to wind farm operators and third parties, leading to greater cost savings and innovation. The wind sector is not uniform. A standardized data process would allow fully and partially digitized processes to communicate with each other and learn from each other. By working in tandem with a standard baseline for data modeling and wind operations classifications, the industry will be able to support system integration, performance monitoring, equipment certification and storage. data efficiency.
Grid integration and wind farm development are among the most pressing challenges for wind industry experts, and these processes will require standardization to succeed.
So how can we join the network? First, it is important to understand the existing network connection data standards. Network data can be modeled in Common Information Models (CIM), which align with those of the Transmission System Operators (TSO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Currently, these standards can support the data exchanges needed to ensure network stability and efficient system operation. However, these cannot be widely applied. New and existing wind farm systems need a mutually agreed upon data standard that includes parameters such as network topology behind the meter and power system variables to fully integrate systems at scale. national and global.
As wind industry experts seek to address the development of wind farms, the marking and certification of the various wind farm components and their applications will be essential in establishing the quality of critical operational components. This will contribute to the development of wind farms by allowing the introduction of new materials – like new sensing devices and wireless technologies – in an organized way, massively increasing the potential data volume and the efficiency of wind farms.
It will also be essential to ensure that the value of data can be realized across the wind sector by defining a comprehensive data sharing policy that takes into account the interests of various stakeholders. This type of policy would address privacy and commercial intellectual property, while allowing the sharing of valuable information across the ecosystem, including the operation and maintenance of wind turbines and the performance of wind farms in different weather conditions.
Developing universal data standards and sharing data will be both time-consuming and difficult. However, it is a necessity, and the wind industry is able to make it happen.
What’s next for digitization
Digitalization has the potential to benefit the wind energy sector globally, and with increased global renewable energy targets, we need to close these gaps in our operations now. Many of the new technologies available will require additional infrastructure, funding, or focus to operate at maximum capacity, but short-term costs translate into long-term gains. Digitization will play a key role in building and expanding the wind sector and wind farm management, which will be key to continuing sustainability efforts.
Jamie Stapleton is a passionate technology and innovation leader who specializes in digital transformation strategies to help clients navigate the sustainable energy transition. In his current role as Global Digital Portfolio Leader for Hitachi Energy, his goal is to lead and evangelize a new era of sustainable energy, enabled by advanced technologies such as IoT, AI/ML and digital. ‘Edge computing. Jamie is an electronics engineer by trade and holds an MBA from the University of Sussex.
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