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From nice-to-have to a competitive advantage: digitising wind turbine farms

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Energy Global,

Sharon Imber, CMO, vHive, focuses on the profound impact of wind turbine farms digitisation and how it is reshaping the entire value chain of wind energy, ushering in a new era of efficiency, sustainability, and profitability.

The revolution in wind turbine farm digitisation is no longer a distant vision; it is a reality that is transforming the energy industry as one knows it. Over the years, wind energy has evolved from an experimental alternative to a mainstream source of power, and the increasing adoption of digital technologies in the wind turbine industry has been a key driver of this transformation.

Now, key stakeholders in this sector can already gain the tangible benefits of digitisation, differentiating industry leaders from those who may lag behind. Embracing this technological shift has become a crucial competitive advantage in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions.

Main failures of traditional methods for turbine inspection

The main disadvantages of using tradition methods to inspect wind turbines are:

  • Manual approach: Conventional inspection methods are time-consuming and demand highly skilled personnel to climb the turbines physically.
  • Climbing: Climbing the towering wind turbines for inspection poses significant safety risks, as well as resulting in downtime.
  • Ground-based zoom photo capture: Using ground-based cameras to capture detailed images of the turbines is limited in its scope and fails to provide a comprehensive view.

What is the big leap?

Unlocking the potential of wind turbine digitisation: Paving the way to higher profitability

The wind turbine industry is on the cusp of a revolutionary transformation driven by digitisation, a leap that promises to redefine its future trajectory.

Today’s innovative technology provides a turnkey solution that facilitates scalable and rapid inspections without the need to rotate each blade independently. By harnessing low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware empowered by autonomous multi-drone technology, downtime is significantly reduced. The elimination of the need for professional drone pilots, coupled with enhanced accuracy through artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytics, enables wind farm operators to achieve consistent and comprehensive data gathering for repeatable and comparable analysis.

This combination of autonomous turbine capture technology and AI-driven analytics represents the gospel of today’s wind turbine industry, delivering an array of benefits:

  • Revenue optimisation.
  • Decreased OPEX.
  • Improved productivity.
  • Extended lifetime of assets.
  • Enhanced safety measures.

The key to realising these advantages lies in creating virtual representations of physical turbines, known as digital twins. Achieving this feat relies on the precise and rapid capture of wind turbines at scale, which significantly reduces downtime and improves overall operational efficiency.

How does wind turbine digitisation bring about these benefits?

The core components of this transformative process include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: By leveraging readily available off-the-shelf hardware, wind farm operators can adopt digitisation at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional methods.
  • Consistent data: Digital twins ensure uniformity and consistency in data gathering, providing operators with reliable, non-human dependent insights for decision-making.
  • Pilot-independent: Digitisation eliminates the reliance on professional drone pilots, making operations more accessible and cost-effective.
  • Speed: Gone are the days of manually rotating blades for inspections. With digitisation, inspections are swift, efficient, and require minimal physical blade rotation.
  • Comprehensive Insights: The wealth of data captured through digitisation enables a comprehensive understanding of turbine health and performance.
  • Repeatable and comparable: The digitisation process allows for standardised data collection, facilitating repeatable and comparable analyses across turbine surveys over time.
  • Multi-drone technology: The use of multiple drones working autonomously reduces downtime and enhances the overall inspection process.
  • AI integration: The captured data is harnessed by AI algorithms, enabling the utilisation of cutting-edge analytics and machine learning for valuable insights.
  • Flexible operational model: Digitisation knows no bounds; it can be implemented anywhere in the world, utilising existing field operators or through turnkey solutions. Off-the-shelf drones can be deployed, while safety measures ensure that climbing is only necessary for essential maintenance.
  • Scalability: The digitisation of wind turbines paves the way for seamless scalability, allowing operators to efficiently expand their operations without compromising on inspection accuracy.

Auto-discovery technology plays a crucial role in this digital revolution. This technology streamlines various aspects of wind turbine management, such as:

  • Wind turbine height detection: Drones equipped with auto-discovery technology can accurately detect wind turbine height, aiding in planning and analysis.
  • Blade positions/orientation detection: The auto-discovery technology automatically detects the precise positions and orientations of the blades, optimising inspection efficiency.
  • Blade capture without rotation: The cutting-edge technology enables the capture of blade data without the need for manual rotation, expediting the process.
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Energy Global's Summer 2023 issue

The Summer 2023 issue of Energy Global hosts an array of technical articles focusing on alternative fuels, battery storage solutions, solar optimisation, and more. This issue also features a regional report on the recent developments in the European renewables market.

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