5 Takeaways from the Windpower Data and Digital Innovation Forum

i4SEE was honored to be asked by the organizer Leadvent Group to chair the Windpower Data and Digital Innovation Forum, held on the 17-18th of February. The event boasted a full slate of international experts, and the fresh challenge of doing it all remotely (bonus zero carbon footprint!) added up to an intensely exciting conference. We could have spent another two days discussing experiences. Thanks to the 80 plus attendees who participated, and for those who didn’t make it, here are the top five biggest takeaways. See you next time!

1. Energy market madness

During the event, Texas was in the middle of a historic deep freeze, rolling power cuts and price spikes, all of which were extensively debated and covered. It was front-page news not just in Texas but across the US. Wind energy received some unfair blame for some of the shortages. A few weeks into 2021, price and energy supply became volatile in Texas, Ireland, UK, South Africa, and Sweden (amongst other places). Winter poses an additional strain on power plants and transmission infrastructure, with failures and shortages causing ripple effects. Asset owners may face unpleasant consequences and scrutiny. Bottom line: renewable energy assets must deliver, especially in times of high demand.

2. Finally no OEM bashing

For years a commonly heard statement was something like this: “if only OEMs shared all the data with us owners and operators, we would know what’s going on with our turbines.” That may have been the case 10 years ago or when portfolios were only a handful of wind farms. However, today portfolios are so large, and the workload for asset managers and engineers so high, there is vastly more data available than time to make heads or tails of it. Data analytics has gone beyond case studies and into productive use. Several presenters showed how they are using analytics as part of their operational processes on a relatively large scale.

3. Gains from predictive maintenance are still huge

With 65% of all maintenance work being reactive, I’ll let the statistics do the talking.

Predictive maintenance can:

  • Cut OPEX by 10-40% depending on the client
  • Lower downtimes by up to 50%
  • Reduce future CAPEX by 3-5%

Source: Ursula Smolka, Ramboll

4. The drones are coming…no, wait, they’re here!

Several companies held presentations on drone and UAV technology. Coupled with modern software and machine learning, vast amounts of visual data can quickly be processed and highlighted. Offshore wind turbines are ideal candidates for extensive UAV use and inspection, though payload issues and communication will need to be solved. This space is evolving at light speed.

5. Virtual events work very well

I can confidently predict that virtual events will continue even after lockdowns and travel restrictions get lifted. There will be no stigma in speakers joining events online. While nothing can replace those morning coffee and afternoon beer networking opportunities, a virtual event offers us the chance to have a vibrantly diverse and full agenda. In two days, 35 speakers presented from more than 20 countries. Attendees were engaged, sent questions, and stayed to the end rather than dashing off to an airport to catch an ill-timed return flight. Personally, I felt very good that my carbon footprint was nil.

Windpower Data and Digital Innovation Forum