Wake Up Call: Why Wind Farm Digitization Can't Afford to Wait

Wake Up Call: Why Wind Farm Digitization Can’t Afford to Wait

22 May 2024 Written by Naomi Stol Zamir

The wind energy industry is seemingly in a constant state of flux as new technologies or issues emerge. Wind farm managers are currently facing a surge of OEM warranty claims, supply chain shortages, and complex repowering initiatives. So, why of all things, tackle wind farm digitization now when resources could be focused elsewhere?

The answer is simple. 

Digitization offers a unified solution to these pressing issues by enhancing efficiency, longevity, and profitability. By better tracking, inspecting, and maintaining wind turbines through automated digitization and drone data analysis, you can address these challenges head-on. The investment in building wind turbine farms over the past decades underscores the importance of automation and data democratization, which are crucial for understanding faults, improving performance, avoiding failures and subpar returns, and ultimately reducing warranty claims while supporting repowering projects.

In essence, digitization is the bridge that allows us to address these substantial issues effectively.

The Impact of Automation

Automation is already transforming the landscape of wind turbine inspections by simplifying data capture, enhancing scalability, and boosting efficiency. Legacy inspection methods required significant manual labor, were hazardous, and were error-prone. Replacing a rope inspection with an autonomous drone inspection allows for consistent data capture, removes hazardous working conditions and human error, and offers significant time savings.

Unprecedented simplicity of data capture is one of the key benefits

Automation ensures that turbine surveys gather highly accurate data systematically, easily, and at scale. Imagine the difference between manually inspecting specific turbine features by climbing the turbine or manually flying a drone versus having a drone autonomously collect all available data within 30 minutes. Automation guarantees an easy, fast, and scalable way to gather consistent data from the field, independent of an external expert operator’s skills.

Scalability is another significant advantage

The wind turbine industry can now benefit from the same scalability seen in other sectors undergoing digital transformation. Autonomously capturing turbine data with drones allows field operations staff to launch and monitor surveys easily, whenever and as frequently as needed, reducing downtime and enabling turbine inspections on a much larger scale.

Handling massive datasets with ease is crucial

Capturing data is one thing; managing and processing vast amounts of data from multiple wind turbine farms across numerous sites is another challenge altogether. Automated systems dedicated to turbine data inspection efficiently handle such large datasets, ensuring the data is retrievable, analyzable, and comparable over time.

Slashing Operational Expenditure (OPEX) is perhaps the most compelling benefit

Automation dramatically reduces the costs associated with manual inspection processes, which are time-consuming and often require highly skilled staff. By using low-cost, off-the-shelf drones connected to a powerful software platform, inspection times per turbine are dramatically reduced, eliminating the need for costly professional drone pilots and image inspectors. The cost reduction brought about by automation is simply too significant to ignore. Additionally, a powerful data analytics platform helps focus attention where it matters most, saving time and costs.

The Importance of Data Democratization

Data democratization ensures that everyone in the organization has equal access to essential data. This approach means that every department can easily access data that influences projects, specific tasks, and decision-making processes.

Why does this matter? 

Access to data allows every team within the organization to evaluate comprehensive company data, enhancing their specific roles. When data is siloed or walled off, it hampers the company’s growth and overall management of the wind farm.

In the past, wind turbine inspections were often handled by third parties, providing reports focused on maintenance issues. Now, wind farm managers can deploy autonomous drones to capture their own data, democratizing the entire process.

Key reasons why data democratization is critical for wind farms include:

  • Enhanced Decision-Making: Capturing and analyzing data internally allows technicians and stakeholders to evaluate a wide range of data points, leading to informed, data-driven decision-making. Instead of relying solely on third-party reports, managers now have access to a broader range of data, fostering better insights and decisions.
  • Creating a Coherent Operational Story: Data doesn’t exist in isolation; it weaves an ongoing narrative about the wind farm and each turbine. Massive datasets alone don’t convey a coherent message to most stakeholders. The real benefit lies in extracting actionable insights from the data, such as understanding the condition and performance of every asset. This understanding helps to cut costs, increase power generation, and boost revenue.
  • Enabling Greater Agility: Access to data throughout the organization allows for unprecedented levels of cross-department collaboration, breaking down silos that otherwise lead to inefficiencies. With democratized data, teams can work together to form rapid response plans to any challenges facing the wind energy industry, increasing overall agility and operational efficiency.

vHive’s Contribution to Wind Farm Digitization

Unlocking the benefits of digitization requires the right platforms and technologies, which is why vHive offers an end-to-end, holistic approach to stepping into the future of wind farm automation and data management.

So, let’s break down our core innovations that help wind farms digitize and then quickly start reaping the rewards.

1. Autonomous Data Capture

vHive’s approach to digitization begins with our industry-recognized and patented autonomous data capture platform. Moving beyond the conventional methods of low-quality ground photos, manual piloting, or the risky option of climbing, our solution enables the use of existing or off-the-shelf drones to perform autonomous wind energy inspections. This upgrade from manually piloted drones and rope inspections allows for significant time savings and ensures uniform and consistent data capture, which is crucial for comparable data across the entire wind farm.

With the ability to control the drone’s flight autonomously, our platform minimizes downtime by enabling swift surveys, allowing a single turbine pause instead of the typical three. The solution automatically identifies blade positions and orientation, capturing a comprehensive dataset with precision. Additionally, vHive has developed the capability to deploy multiple drones to collect data from multiple sites simultaneously, significantly optimizing operational efficiency.

Once an inspection is completed, the data is integrated into our platform to power digital twin analytics.

 

 vHive’s Blade Inspection

 vHive’s Blade Inspection

2. Digital Twin Platform

vHive’s digital twin platform creates high-resolution digital representations of wind turbines. Each drone inspection adds its captured data to our platform, enabling comprehensive portfolio analysis. AI and computer vision algorithms identify faults and categorize them by severity, type, and location, offering instant visibility into blade conditions. This digital twin automation allows technicians, stakeholders, and engineers to review inspections and gain high-level insights easily.

Our cloud-based platform is accessible worldwide, enabling users to review results, prioritize critical maintenance tasks, and gain actionable insights from detailed reports. It supports both a high-level overview and drill-down capabilities into specific assets, and automatically generates a report with identified faults for review, facilitating immediate planning for turbine maintenance and ensuring users can focus on emerging issues with relevance and urgency. 

 

 vHive’s Portfolio Page

 vHive’s Portfolio Page

 

3. API Integration

Data democratization also involves integrating external data to enhance actionable insights. vHive’s digital twin platform can seamlessly exchange data with partner APIs, adding valuable information such as weather reports and projections to the operation. This integration enriches the SCADA ecosystem, facilitating predictive maintenance scheduling and optimizing turbine performance based on weather conditions, breaking down silos between IT systems.

4. End-to-End Turbine Digitization

vHive’s platform offers a comprehensive solution covering every stage of turbine management, including:

  • Autonomously capturing data
  • Creating digital twins
  • Generating automated inspection reports
  • Providing on-demand data analysis
  • Scheduling preventative maintenance
  • Integrating APIs to enhance operations with external data

By ensuring a continuous data flow from the initial capture to creating digital twins with advanced AI analytics and detailed reports on blade conditions, vHive covers the entire process of turbine inspection within a single platform. This end-to-end approach equips you with everything necessary to optimize operations, from planning maintenance downtime to understanding optimal wind conditions for power generation, ultimately extending the lifespan and revenue of every turbine on the farm.

Digitize Your Wind Farm with vHive Today

Embracing automation, data democratization, and advanced analytics for wind turbine inspections contributes to solving the current challenges facing the industry — while also preparing you for the future.

Investing time and resources into digitization now will quickly benefit the entire operation while creating a future-ready approach to wind farm management.

vHive provides an industry-leading automation and data democratization platform for wind turbine inspections to provide immediate and lasting benefits. Once implemented, you’ll reap the rewards of autonomous wind turbine inspections, digital twin analytics, and an unprecedented level of insights into the entire operation.

Are you ready to digitize? Take a step towards a more efficient, productive future in wind turbine inspections with the power of automation and data democratization. Schedule your demo today.

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