Digitization of Wind Turbines

Digitization of Wind Turbines: How to Guide Maintenance and Reduce Operational Costs

12 Jul 2023 Written by Naomi Stol Zamir

The days of wind turbines being a brand new invention poised to transform energy are long gone. While the Global Wind Energy Council reports a 15% year-on-year growth in wind energy, individual turbines have aged significantly.

One study indicates over 50% of wind turbines in some regions have been in operation for 15 years or longer. The same study discovered that the estimated average yearly decline rate is 0.63% and that degradation adds up when considering an entire wind farm.

What can you do about it? Digitizing your wind farms allows you to integrate the latest technological advancements to keep each turbine running optimally and extend its overall lifespan.

Wind turbine maintenance is necessary to avoid output degradation, downtime, or reaching the end of life sooner than expected. Digitizing your wind farm allows you to have more significant insights into each turbine on the farm so you can identify areas of concern to keep your operation in motion.

Interested in learning how digitization is impacting renewable energy operations? Read on to see how you can leverage leading-edge technologies to guide maintenance and reduce operational costs.

Best Practices for Digitization in Wind Energy

Digitizing wind energy can create potent benefits for every wind farm, but it’s vital to undertake this endeavor strategically. Following a few simple best practices will help you properly upgrade your operations rather than haphazardly implementing new technologies that may not benefit your business.

One study found that the top priorities for digitization in the wind energy industry are enhancing the following:

  • Operational efficiency (52%)
  • Decision-making (42%)
  • Cost efficiency (40%)

These goals certainly overlap and intertwine, but focusing on what’s most important to your specific operation when digitizing your wind farm is essential.

So, how do you decide what technologies to adopt and how to use them effectively? A few best practices for wind farm digitization include:

  • Identify clear goals and objectives: What is your organization’s top priority? Is making data-driven decisions vital as you expand? Or are your operational costs exceeding expectations? Start with specific goals and objectives to ensure the technologies you adopt and how they’re implemented work towards your overall goal.
  • Adopt the right technologies: Stating your goal allows you to focus on the technologies that will work towards it. For example, if you want to effectively map your equipment to improve overall maintenance and operations, you’ll need access to the right digital twin software. Additionally, this software can drive cost efficiency, significantly decreasing the costs of turbine inspections. Before moving forward, evaluate the potential benefits and costs of implementing a new technology.
  • Using software to reduce the need for skilled pilots: Most drone solutions require highly skilled (and costly) pilots to operate the drones. However, with autonomous drone software, anyone can deploy the drones required for an inspection at the click of a button — removing your dependency on skilled pilots to carry out inspections.

Benefits of Digitizing Wind Farm Management

It’s no secret the wind energy industry benefits from being a relatively newer vertical compared to the more established fossil fuels sector. And while this means wind energy tends to be more receptive to newer technologies — wind farm management is far from perfect.

So, what benefits do digitization and digital twins have to offer when it comes to wind farm management? Here are a few of the most important ones:

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Digitizing your wind turbines allows you to predict when maintenance needs to be performed more strategically. As a result, you’ll be equipped to schedule maintenance and repairs to save time and reduce costs.

For example, autonomous drone software simplifies inspections, providing visual accuracy to identify faults of several kinds. This gives your inspectors and maintenance teams critical information for planning future maintenance initiatives or for carrying out ad hoc repairs to maximize both uptime and costs.

vHive offers a powerful solution to help digitize your assets to improve the overall performance of every turbine on the farm. Our autonomous drone inspections simplify the process of wind turbine optimization by digitizing your assets to create an improved inspection process that’s backed by data and powerful insights. The end result? Data-driven decision making.

Enhanced Monitoring

New IoT sensors and data availability can enable operations to have real-time or near-real-time insights into the energy output of individual turbines. As a result, it becomes significantly easier to identify sudden drops in output that warrant further inspection.

Another use case for advanced monitoring is identifying issues and adjusting individual turbines to minimize potential damage. For example, you may notice that a gearbox is not functionally optimal, allowing you to run the lower turbine at lower capacity until it’s repaired.

Big Data also comes into play, as wind farms can leverage data from other farms, regional wind patterns, and data generated by their turbines to create new insights into operations. Then, cutting costs via data-driven decision-making for repairs and replacement becomes possible.

Minimize Output Degradation

A significant issue with wind farms is output degradation. Every year, the output of each turbine will decrease, which is expected for any type of machinery. However, decreased output has a powerful impact on the operation’s bottom line.

Digitization equips you with advanced tools to create effective maintenance schedules and identify any detrimental issues that may accelerate degradation if left unchecked.

vHives’ autonomous digital twin software enables seamless integration with advanced IoT sensors and Big Data through an open API. This allows for a healthy exchange of accurate data across the tech stack.

Take the Next Step in Autonomous Inspections with vHive

Unsurprisingly, wind farm operations are often at the forefront of leading-edge technologies. Yet, it’s crucial to strategically digitize your assets to improve operational efficiency than implementing technologies that may not contribute to your business objectives.

Autonomous drone inspections are one of the latest advancements available to wind farms that significantly benefit the operation. Rather than relying on rope inspections or manual drone inspections, truly autonomous drone inspections increase accuracy and reduce operational costs.

vHive has developed leading-edge software that allows drones to autonomously inspect wind farms to reduce operational costs and minimize output degradation. Are you ready to discover what autonomous drones can do for your wind farm? Reach out to our experts today for a demo of how we can help your operation.

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