Article - Greenbyte

January 6, 2021 — Industry Trends

Offshore wind has the power to digitalize today

The European Union has committed to grow offshore wind in European waters from 12GW now to 60GW by 2030. This will require a smart approach to digitalization.

Christos Kaidis
Technical Sales Engineer, Greenbyte

On 19th November, the European Union published its offshore renewable energy strategy. This proposes to increase European offshore wind from 12GW now to at least 60GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050. It plans to complement this with 40GW from other ocean energy sources, including floating wind and solar. The plan was immediately welcomed by the wind industry.

“This is a very good strategy,” said Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, who said it was “spot on in the necessary investments to deliver that [growth] – in grids, ports and the supply chain”. These are all vital. But one area that we believe was missing from the EU plan was scant information about its digitalization plans.

In short, digitalization is a great opportunity for offshore wind companies. It can help to run turbines optimally and profitability, and is vital to predictive maintenance that can reduce costly site visits and O&M costs. These are especially costly offshore.

Therefore, operators should be looking to make decisions on the running of schemes based on solid data that gives great confidence. Our concern is the EU and industry might see digitalization as a future solution, whereas it’s actually happening now.

Now don’t get us wrong. The document makes positive noises. It recognizes “digital technologies should be a key enabler” of its growth goal. This is vital to successfully integrate offshore wind into the energy system – for which it will be the backbone – and improve efficiency in the offshore wind value chain. It’s a good starting point.

But it doesn’t develop the idea. Mentions of “advanced data analysis and AI-based solutions” feel like buzzwords that ignore the ways that firms can digitalize now.

Demands to digitalize

In recent months, we’ve shared our insights about how Greenbyte customers in the offshore wind sector are using digital systems to optimize their assets.

For example, the Taxonomy system we developed with Parkwind shows the losses per component in its portfolio; and our Predict system has helped Dutch utility Eneco to adopt predictive maintenance approaches at offshore assets. Both see the use of digital technology as a way to get an edge in a highly competitive market.

This shows there are ways that offshore wind operators can already make use of the latest advances in AI and machine learning. These could provide crucial insights for the major utilities who run offshore wind farms in Europe and globally, but do so with systems that they built in-house and might not have the same level of sophistication.

Taking steps to digitalize now will boost profitability at operational projects and help unlock further investment. This will make it easier to hit the EU’s long-term targets.

The systems we have today can be the ‘key enabler’ the EU is calling for.

We have seen large OEMs take major steps in terms of making turbines more digital by providing improved monitoring and analytics. We would expect this investment to step up further as tech-savvy oil giants enter offshore wind in the coming years.

The demand to digitalize is huge.

We see increased appetite from operators for user-friendly interfaces that save time for the O&M experts who make key decisions that affect project profitability. This is an area we feel particularly passionate about with all Greenbyte products.

We see a desire from offshore wind developers with oil and gas expertise to pick up best practice from those sectors. This will help them extract more data produced by projects. The challenge then is focusing on core KPIs and not being overwhelmed.

And we see a willingness for operators to use digitalization as a solution that not only helps them optimise a single turbine, but also whole projects and portfolios. This can play an important role in unlocking investment that is needed to hit the EU’s targets.

Ultimately, we believe that operators see the benefits of using digital technologies to ensure the profitably management of offshore portfolios. We can support by helping them allocate losses to specific components; adding new layers of analytics to allow for alternative contractual structures and risk allocation; and in many other ways too.

There will be more advances in digitalization but let’s not forget the improvements that operators can make today. There isn’t a moment to lose.

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