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Restrictions on turbine data impede growth of wind industry & may be unlawful

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Leading predictive analytics partner warns of need for greater access to operational data if reductions in LCoE are to continue

Nottingham, 24 September 2018 – Restrictions on access to operational turbine performance data are limiting the wind industry’s ability to reduce its O&M costs. This is according to ONYX InSight, a leading predictive analytics partner for asset owners and operators, which has further warned that these restrictions may be unlawful under EU competition law.

O&M-related expenditure constitutes 58% of all operational expenditure costs, much of which is due to reactive, unplanned maintenance. While the industry is increasingly turning to predictive maintenance programmes and condition monitoring systems (CMS) that allow for proactive, cost-efficient interventions, these approaches rely on a continuous stream of high-quality, readable data to operate effectively and contribute to lowering the overall levelized cost of energy (LCoE).

However, at present asset owners and operators face significant challenges in  accessing this data, as there is no clear approach to data access across equipment suppliers. Only a minority of OEMs allow significant and open access to data. In the main, OEMs manage access for users, providing a highly-processed subset of this data, or allowing no free access at all. Significantly, and as a result, not all owners and operators have an equal opportunity to access turbine performance data.

“Owners should be confident in asking for full and free access to their data when negotiating supply agreements with OEMs. From an O&M perspective, if an asset is purchased, then the owner should have the ability to take full advantage of all associated O&M data, such as SCADA or oil monitoring data – which can be clearly differentiated from design IP,” said Bruce Hall, CEO at ONYX InSight.

“High-quality raw data is essential to optimising predictive maintenance programmes and reducing O&M costs, as turbine asset owners and operators cannot fully optimise their assets without complete access.”

The high-quality performance data for optimised O&M which owners need does not include turbine specifications, load calculations or other potentially sensitive design IP, so there should be no excuse for restrictions on data access. But, of the top eleven CMS hardware providers – who between them account for over 80% of the market – only one gives full access to CMS data, and seven do not permit any access to data whatsoever.

More importantly, current restrictions on accessing data may constitute breaches of EU competition law, under which anti-competitive agreements and the abuse of a dominant position are unlawful.

“For instance, a single equipment supplier may encrypt data from their CMS system and request an annual maintenance fee to make it available. This means that wind asset owners who own a number of wind farms equipped with CMS systems from multiple suppliers will be unable to centralise operational data and gain an overview of their entire fleet,” said Dr Sebastian Hack, Counsel at Osborne Clarke LLP.

“In order to ensure effective competition in maintenance aftermarkets, turbine owners should have a right to access data produced by their turbines as it is essential to their efficient operation. Therefore, encrypting the data in this way distorts competition and may qualify as an abuse of a dominant position.”

“We would encourage other affected parties to share their experience of data limitations across their fleets and support a call for more equitable sharing of data in the wind industry,” added Bruce Hall.

ONYX InSight will be at this week’s WindEnergy Hamburg conference (Hall B5, stand 533), to discuss how asset owners and operators can best access operational data, including writing this requirement into service contracts.

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