April 8, 2020 — Industry Trends
US wind: In times of crisis, the right data is key
Data has always been important to businesses. But the current coronavirus pandemic has shown us that data isn’t just at the heart of commercial decision-making. It’s the very heartbeat of business continuity in rapidly changing times.
The scale of the O&M challenge in US wind is getting larger. Last month, the Energy Information Administration reported that wind overtook hydro in 2019 as the largest source of renewables generation. There is now 100GW installed wind in the US.
That’s a lot of turbines to manage: almost 60,000 in 41 states. If you’re smart, you’ll already be instilling good data management habits from the first MWh. This helps to cope with investors and shareholder demands to maximise profits from the get-go.
The one-year extension of the wind production tax credit in mid-December will grow capacity even more. This will further raise pressure on operators to maximise profits as there can be no guarantee the PTC will be extended after the end of 2020.
There are other unknowns too. The Trump administration has delayed permitting for the 800MW Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm when it should be supporting this new market; and is also looking to offer federal aid for shale gas firms hit by this month’s oil price crash. These will raise questions about the direction of US energy strategy.
This could prompt businesses and consumers to delay their plans to invest in energy efficiency and put off buying electric vehicles. If oil costs $25 a barrel, why use less of it? We get the point. But we’ve got far more faith in the energy transition than that.
Moving towards a renewables-powered world is about more than economics. There was a global shift in attitudes to the climate in 2019, and a pandemic won’t change that. If anything, it shows how much better the world is without excess emissions.
That’s where data professionals like you can play a crucial role. Climate change is happening and, in that changing world, it’s up to you to track project performance to maximise production and boost returns. It’s up to you to educate management about relevant data so that your portfolio isn’t over-exposed to one technology or region.
We know there are challenges. As more utilities and investors grow by acquisition, the right data platform will help these firms manage O&M in a portfolio with projects made up of a wide range of turbines. Detecting anomalies early is vitally important. You can read about how we helped Dutch utility Eneco to do this here.
Better data will also help make decisions about when to invest in new technology, including energy storage. Check out our latest thinking on storage here.
This data will help you to unlock new levels of productivity. We have seen in recent weeks that countries and companies across the world are using ever-evolving – and often imperfect – health statistics to make decisions about their coronavirus policies. This is a timely reminder about the need for good data to make the right decisions.
Otherwise it’s garbage in, garbage out.