How can big data achieve dramatic cost reductions for wind farms?
Romax, sponsors of this year's Financing Wind conference, provide an exclusive insight for the A Word About Wind blog into how data analytics can help owner operators make wise decisions. Romax is a global leader in software and services for rotating and electric machinery; they work with over 250 organisations around the world, specialising in consulting, process improvement, design, analysis, testing and manufacturing. You can read more about the work Romax do here.
In the last few years the wind sector has seen a dramatic decrease in worldwide strike prices. These reductions are a testament to the hard work and many innovative ideas implemented across all industry sectors, which enabled the rapid decrease in the levelized cost of energy of onshore and offshore wind farms.
The largest proportion of these anticipated decreases will be achieved through economies of scale, increased turbine sizes, efficiency savings in logistics and supply chains, reducing the cost of capital, and greater use of debt finance. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the latest auction results – especially in EU offshore wind – are estimates, and the industry still needs to prove that it can sustainably generate at those prices and remain profitable.
The wider adoption of various sensors and significant developments in data processing capabilities mean that ‘big data’ has become a key topic at many wind conferences.
Ironically, traditional power plants have been using the same data sources (SCADA, vibration, maintenance, lubrication etc.) for many years without resorting to digital clones. Drawing from our experience, working with a number of operators across the world, we find the challenge is not in big data, but in making smart decisions supported by data.
Many operators have now adopted condition monitoring systems and undertake some form of data analysis to reduce the cost of unscheduled maintenance.
However, this is just one piece of the puzzle. The impact of data analytics that is not supported by deep technology and operational knowledge will always be limited. Much greater savings are available from integrating the whole operations and maintenance cycle into digital decision making platform (see figures 1 and 2).
For example, our own system Romax InSight has estimated that 30% reductions in O&M costs can be achieved following the implementation of digital platforms. In a number of benchmarking studies, Romax InSight has focused on the large variability in performance and operational expenditures for sites operating in the same region with the same turbine technology. This is largely due to the fact that while many existing tools can alert the site team to impending turbine failure, they lack inbuilt operational logic that can enable cost effective solutions.
1) Comparison of Annual Capacity Factor:
2) Availability of Wind Farm A:
The wind industry has successfully overcome many challenges over the years. The one we face today is to achieve dramatic cost reduction, which is perhaps the biggest and most important of them all.
If successful, it will enable wind to move away from being a political bargaining chip or financial vehicle to becoming the mainstream affordable and sustainable energy supply. We look forward to playing a role in helping wind overcome this challenge.
If you'd like to learn more about accurately forecasting O&M costs, Romax have provided a white paper on the subject - it's free to download here.