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Three steps to success: why digitalisation is key to scaling the wind sector

Three steps to success: why digitalisation is key to scaling the wind sector

October 12, 2021

Ashley Crowther

Global Vice President - Sales & Engineering

,

ONYX InSight

Dr. Ashley Crowther, Global VP, ONYX Insight

This November, the world’s focus turns to Glasgow for COP 26, where global leaders will come together to discuss the defining challenge of our time: climate change.

The renewable energy sector has long been aware of its pivotal role in reducing carbon emissions as the energy transition gathers pace. And whatever the outcome of COP26, it won’t change one fundamental reality – the wind industry needs to scale up, fast.

But even as investors continue to back wind with unprecedented vigour, owners and operators of wind assets will need to adapt to a changing renewables landscape, to minimise growing pains at a crucial transition period.

ONYX Insight conducted groundbreaking research into the shape of the wind sector for its Decoding Wind’s Future, examining key trends that will open up new opportunities for wind stakeholders in the coming years.

A key finding of the report is that the digital tools used by wind operators will need to reflect a more complex wind sector, caused by the rise of supermajor owner-operators with large, global multi-technology portfolios.

This article outlines a clear path for the wind sector which ONYX Insight has identified, showing how to make the best use of digital solutions now – and further down the line – to ensure profitability and growth remain high.

Step 1: Eliminate Silos

The biggest obstacle to operational excellence in the wind industry is siloed data. According to ONYX Insight’s industry survey, 62% of wind industry stakeholders consider data integration a significant barrier to digital advancement. Data silos mean lost value – whether at a technical or organisational level.

Key to a non-siloed approach is considering an asset as a single power plant and making operational decisions that optimise output across the whole plant, instead of individual turbines or modules.

This means providing entire teams, from field services to CEOs, with instant access to critical information, creating a clear digital link across all departments to drive efficiency and profitability across the entire portfolio.

Step 2: Learn to optimise complex portfolios

The wind industry is growing, and with growth comes diversity. Wind owners and operators face a new reality of mixed technology portfolios. From a 2020 baseline of 339GW global solar capacity, 449GW wind, and 5GW storage, ONYX Insight’s research shows that the total installed capacity in 2030 will encompass 902GW solar, 1114GW wind, and 87GW storage.

And, with 60% of operators set to manage mixed portfolios of wind and solar assets by 2025 according to ONYX Insight’s data, common software platforms for wind and solar will be needed.

A future platform for hybrid assets must therefore incorporate deep sector knowledge for each asset type. Engineering and operational knowledge must be translated into software to simplify and support operational decisions – whatever the asset class.

Step 3: Create a truly holistic digital tool

As they move forward in increasingly merchant environments, wind owners and operators will seek to maximise revenue by optimising energy sales. This will require flexible operating strategies, underpinned by market pricing, where turbines can be uprated or derated to maximise the value of energy sold.

However, tools that can facilitate the feedback between market and operations are limited. Many ‘data’ products and services available to operators have a narrow focus, tracking granular operational data without linking to key profit- and efficiency-driving KPIs.

Software needs to become the bridge, helping asset managers and field teams take actions that ensure asset- wide profitability. Crucially, future platforms need to build in processes to implement changes.

Ultimately, this points to a need for independent, technology-agnostic solutions integrating data on asset performance, maintenance, asset management, sales and pricing.


ONYX Insight explored these themes and more in detail in its latest whitepaper, ‘Decoding Wind’s Future’. Download the full report and learn more here: https://onyxinsight.com/whitepapers/decoding-winds-future/

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