Adopting new technologies key to unlocking wind industry potential
Scotland, the windiest country in Europe, last year generated 78 per cent of all renewable electricity output from wind energy. On and offshore wind represents a crucial part of the energy mix. The Scottish Government has increased its target for onshore wind to 20GW, more than doubling existing capacity, and is aiming for between 8-11GW offshore wind by 2030.
Wind is proving itself as a reliable source of energy and a key player in the energy mix.
However, despite pioneering offshore wind a decade ago, questions have arisen in the industry as to how the UK can maintain its lead. Some developers are looking to pull out of committed sites, affected by spiralling costs, supply chain issues, restricted port and manufacturing facilities and long-drawn-out permitting issues.
Those who work in the wind industry have known that overly fast acceleration of size and turbine technology, and an over-commitment to targets have affected the sector’s ability to scale sustainably.
The challenges now emerging in the public domain are welcome in the quest for solutions – notably those around increasing component failures and how owner/operators are to retain energy production while ensuring fleet profitability and balancing this with turbine reliability, skills deficits, and other on-going issues.
Confidence in technology and low cost energy generation are fundamental to delivering these ambitious growth targets and introducing new opportunities for innovation. As part of this drive towards improvement, it has been crucial to maximise the efficiency of wind turbines to get the most power at the lowest cost.
The transfer of knowledge and technology as well as innovation will be important in revolutionising the wind industry and more broadly the energy landscape. Providing digital solutions that will enable better decision-making and scheduled operations and maintenance (O&M) for the industry, as well as increasing safety standards and moving from labour-intensive inspections of components to accurately predicted digital ones and their adoption have already rescued £500m annually in potential lost revenue for the global wind industry.
ONYX Insight is a UK company that has become a world leader in helping wind farm operators maximise the return on investment and lower the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) using innovative digital technologies. Working with seven out of the top 10 global power producers, it monitors more than 14,000 wind turbines in 30 different countries. ONYX has developed a combination of sensor technologies and advanced data analytic products that help some of the biggest and most advanced turbines operate safely and efficiently.
With ONYX’s technologies, operators can monitor the performance of their turbines. Sensors strategically placed throughout the turbines on major components such as the drivetrain, tower and blades collect data on various parameters such as vibration, temperature, and bearing health.
This is becoming even more important as large new projects are developed further offshore. Technology adoption will be particularly important in establishing Scotland as a global leader when it comes to offshore wind and floating offshore in particular.
ONYX Chief Executive Bruce Hall said: “The biggest challenges facing the industry right now include tackling the escalating costs of new developments exacerbated by inflation and post-Covid-19 supply chain challenges, plus the arrival of new technology such as floating wind turbines.
“These can be mitigated by expanding the role of predictive technologies to parts of the wind turbines that are particularly difficult to monitor, such as the huge turbine blades that help generate increasingly large amounts of power for the grid. By adopting new technologies, wind turbine owners and operators can avoid catastrophic failures, extend the life of turbine components, and maximise the efficiency of operations ultimately delivering sustainable energy to consumers at the lowest cost.”
New technology can ultimately bring renewed confidence to the industry in their O&M. Taking away potential costly unknowns is necessary if the industry is to continue its investment and keep wind a significant player in the fight against climate change.