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Learnings from our Global Wind Turbine Technical Symposium

On the 6th – 8th October, we hosted our annual 2020 Global Wind Turbine Technical Symposium virtually, bringing together 500+ decision-makers across the 3-day event. In order to establish a global perspective on current trends in the renewable space, ONYX InSight hosted each day of the symposium in a different region, focusing on Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

The symposium enabled wind farm owners, operators, engineers and technicians from across the global wind energy sector to learn from an array of experts in O&M best practice.

We were delighted to be joined by senior figures from businesses including Ørsted, EDPR, bp Wind, Pattern Energy, SSE, UL, ZF Wind Power and many more, collectively shedding light on the key operations and maintenance challenges, such as ageing fleets and the digital transition, and how intelligent approaches to predictive maintenance strategies are pivotal profit drivers.

Ageing wind turbine fleet

In one of our polls, 62% of participants agreed that blade failures are currently the biggest worry – especially for an ageing fleet. And with 45% of the German onshore fleet over 15 years, it’s a pressing consideration, particularly for those early adopters.

These feelings were echoed during a panel on the first day where experts discussed the challenges around sourcing replacement parts for older turbines. For blades in particular, the original moulds are often no longer available having been retired from service years before.

One potential solution that was identified was repurposing parts from decommissioned turbines, however owners and operators then face the challenge of due diligence, proving that they are still fit for purpose. An alternative suggestion that arose from discussions was the possibility to retrofit new blade sets but current certification for this can come with a significant prohibitive cost so must be carefully considered.

With the trend in aging assets looking set to grow, the industry needs to look at ways to reduce this cost to make the business case for life extension. One way to do this is to embrace advances in digitalisation. Enhancing turbines by making them data rich is the first step to accessing better oversight of turbine health – from here, owners and operators can rely on more advanced predictive maintenance strategies to make better informed decisions when it comes to life extension.

Readiness for AI transition

Another theme that we have championed for quite some time is the growth of AI in the wind energy sector, so we took this opportunity to ask the gathered decision makers about their experiences of AI in practice.

Two-thirds of responders were either already using AI and/or machine learning technology in their organisations or expect to start using it within the next three years. It is clear that there is increasing recognition by wind farm owners, operators and engineers that the future of O&M is increasingly data driven.

New opportunities have also arisen through the ability of wind energy firms to access and connect their data. Over half of attendees had increased confidence regarding the quality of data and connecting it through IT integration – but tellingly, they also believed that their organisations data readiness was not consolidated in one place, pointing to a clear need to adopt best practice data gathering software.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the benefits of a digitally enhanced O&M strategy, and with this in mind, it’s understandable that a key focus that came through from the symposium was maximising turbine uptime, particularly when it comes to aging fleets, since repairs can be prohibitively costly. It was therefore reassuring to discover that two-thirds of attendees believed the best returns on digitalisation were found in turbine reliability analytics.

This is why, at ONYX InSight we pride ourselves in supporting wind asset owners and operators globally to help them unlock the true value of their wind farms through a combination of data analytics and real-world engineering in support of planned repairs and maintenance.

You can read more about the latest developments in wind industry digitalisation in our whitepaper here.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch up on the Symposium, keep your eyes peeled on our LinkedIn – recordings will soon be made available on the ONYX InSight website!

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