What I Learned From Wind Energy Podcasting in 2020

February 12, 2021 6:40 pm Published by

Wind Energy Knowledge Gained Podcasting Throughout 2020

I have had the fortunate opportunity to interview Wind industry experts as the Kurz Wind Podcast host. As someone closely involved with operators, wind technicians, and site managers, I’ve gifted an exciting perspective of both day-by-day and significant picture Wind energy insights.

This article is a deep dive into what we’ve learned throughout our Wind Energy Podcasting journey of 2020.

Data is Everything

Whether you’re a global OEM or a software company, there is a massive amount of data that can be aggregated from wind turbines. The question that’s routinely asked is “What do we do with all of this data?’ and “Is there a way to standardize across the industry?’ In Episode 7 with GE Renewables, we learned that data and analytics were the catalysts to designing (and dreaming up the possibility of) the GE 5.3-Megawatt Cypress onshore behemoth. Its 158-meter rotor is one of the largest rotor diameters to have ever been designed and manufactured.

In Episode 13, Sam Tasker of WindEsco talks about combing through massive data dumps to identify the inefficiencies in wind turbine production (as measured by AEP: annual energy production).  While this data is available to most wind operators, we aren’t fully leveraging the data to maximize turbine output and revenue. In some cases, sites lose over 5% of their annual production revenue due to things as simple as yaw misalignment. Unfortunately, there isn’t a globally adopted data standard that helps owners/operators sort through their turbine information and fix ‘leaks’ in the system.

I predict we will see leading Wind organizations begin to systemically organize turbine data and set industry benchmarks to continue pushing for peak efficiency and sustainable energy production.  We must focus on maximizing production, revenue (for more R&D, engineering, and site development), and long-term asset health with sustainability in mind.

Failure Prevention, Component Connectivity, and AI

Multiple companies are looking into component connectivity and condition monitoring, and some have already had a positive impact on owners/operators across the globe.  We discussed wear debris monitoring and its effects on gearbox fault detection during our conversation with Poseidon Systems.   The addition of online condition monitoring has proven to detect early gearbox failure indicators that vibration monitoring and oil samples missed. Could you imagine condition monitoring on every system within your turbine?  With AI, condition monitoring could eventually predict when a pitch motor will fail or a brush carbon brush needing replacement. This, in turn, can give operators a granular approach to scheduling maintenances, reducing major component failures, and accurately forecasting parts consumption.

In addition to online monitoring, sites can drastically improve operational efficiencies with artificial intelligence. For example, blade inspections used to be performed by technicians on the ground with binoculars trying to spot cracks and degradation of the blades. As we learned from our podcast with mCloud, we can now use autonomous drones and AI to identify and classify blade damage across an entire fleet of wind turbines.   This technology saves operators time and decreases the likelihood of missing potentially catastrophic blade damage. From a work-scheduling standpoint, you can begin planning blade repairs for highly damaged blades within 48-hours of inspection!

I predict that we see AI, condition monitoring, and big data come together to build a robust model of system/component monitoring that predicts failures before they even happen.  Just one wind turbine costs $42-48,000 dollars per year, per megawatt, to maintain.  The advancement of AI, big data, and condition monitoring could save millions of dollars in operations and maintenance costs across the US.

The Wind Community is Stronger than Ever

One of my favorite questions to ask podcasts guests is, “What do you like most about Wind?”  While some guests grew up near Wind Turbines and had an early fascination with the technology, others (like John McKay of Gearbox Express, Episode 15) responded to a job interview request that wasn’t even directed to them!  What’s the common theme?  They believe in the strength of the seemingly small, tight-knit community that continues to push the growth of Windpower.

It doesn’t matter from what industry they came, and once they were in Wind, they never want to leave.  I came from an unrelated industry and quickly grew to love the community as I engaged with the sites and industry leaders. The message is clear: we are a part of the global responsibility in pursuing sustainable energy production. Through all the growing pains, the future impact Wind energy is creating is immeasurable.

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This post was written by Matt Passannante

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