According to statistics from the European Wind Energy Association, 12,800 MW of wind power capacity was installed and grid-connected in the EU during 2015 – more than any other form of power generation. That’s enough to power approximately 10 million houses. It overtook hydro power as the third largest source of power generation in the EU with a share of 15.6% share of total power capacity.
As well as being 100% renewable, among the many advantages of wind turbines are the facts that wind farms require no fuel, produce no waste or greenhouse gases and are a good way of powering remote areas. However, as with all forms of power generation there are challenges to overcome, says Steve Ehrlich, SVP at Space-Time Insight.
Keeping the blades turning
Wind turbines are costly and difficult assets to maintain for a number of reasons. For starters, by their very nature they are a combination of complex technology and heavy machinery, requiring skilled engineers to ensure they are operating safely and effectively.
Furthermore, as wind farms require an average speed of around 25km/h to generate a worthwhile output, engineering and maintenance crews must often be deployed to remote locations to fix faults, carry out maintenance and upgrade turbines.
This can be a highly unproductive process for wind energy operators if engineering teams arrive at a job without the correct skills, equipment, parts, and amount of time, or simply at a time when the job cannot be carried out due to bad weather or other risks.
Therefore, planning operations regarding the maintenance and regulation of turbines is an extremely complex process. Factors such as the weather, available parts, individual and collective skills within the engineering teams, travel times, tower climb time and proximity to other crews must be considered.
At Space-Time Insight, we work with some of the largest generators of global wind power to improve the efficiency of wind farms and lower the cost of maintaining them. When it comes to asset-intensive operations, wind energy producers are right up there. We work with companies which have more than 10,000 turbines and 1,000 people operating across multiple sites, states and countries.
Running like the wind
So, to overcome this challenge, wind utilities need to harness the power of big data analytics in a way that provides clear, actionable insight from the masses of data being collected in real-time from a huge number of different data sets.
We provide visual analytics for the Internet of Things (IoT) to give wind operators the real-time context they need to see the bigger picture of what is happening across all of their assets to make the most informed decisions.
For example, our analytics allows wind operators to make informed and accurate decisions, saving on equipment and staffing costs, by weighing up all the different scenarios and presenting the best possible combination of answers based on all the data at their disposal.
Therefore, despite the challenges posed by wind farming, one of the most asset-intensive and technologically complex industries around, the combination of advanced analytics and expertise enables wind utilities to manage all the moving parts. This involves developing a clear set of actions, as well as understanding when to take them, who should take them, who should be in the crew and which parts are required for the job.
As wind becomes a more popular form of renewable energy in Europe which will help power the future, wind farm operators must invest in IoT analytics to better understand the current and forecasted conditions of their operation, but also see the bigger picture. This will help them run their operations in a more cost-effective, time-efficient and safer manner.
The author of this blog is Steve Ehrlich, SVP at Space-Time Insight.
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