How can wind companies avoid data 'dead ends'?
Using data wisely can help companies to manage their wind portfolios far more efficiently, but they could also get stuck with technology and processes that don't match their future goals. In this post Jonas Corné, CEO at renewables data firm Greenbyte, warns companies about some potential 'dead ends' to look out for.
We all know that, when used wisely, data is powerful stuff.
It identifies marginal gains in even the most manicured of processes. It warns of problems before they’re even born. It helps you attract investment, it's in your corner when you negotiate with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and it can help you breathe new life into ageing assets.
But, for asset and portfolio owners, data can pose more obstacles than it overcomes. If it isn’t managed properly, it can be overwhelming and impair judgement. It can create anxiety throughout a business, from the technicians on site to the board.
And, perhaps scariest of all, it can get you stuck down a ‘data dead-end’, with a major technology investment that leads to incumbency and ultimately stifles innovation. Software service providers, almost without exception, promise to help the industry overcome these data challenges. However, they are also, intentionally or not, responsible for leading asset and portfolio owners down a variety of data dead-ends.
Here are some of the potential dead ends to watch out for...
- You are contractually tied to a single engineering or data approach
In a crowded market, software providers naturally seek a specific USP that will appeal to their target customers. In practice, this means that data monitoring and management platforms are often built around a particular set of technical services that promise to boost portfolio performance, optimise maintenance regimes and reduce operational expenditure costs.
While these particular tools might work for one project or portfolio, they may not always work for another, so asset owners must keep their options open. Otherwise they run the risk of rolling out an asset management strategy at great expense, then finding out that this does not yield the desired return on investment or isn’t ‘future-proof’ as technology evolves.
- Your software provider exits the market
The market for digital solutions in renewable energy is still young and, while many software providers with a true commitment to supporting the sector are swiftly establishing a robust foothold, others may not achieve critical mass, or simply turn their attention elsewhere.
Consolidation in the market is to be expected, but a lack of future technical support is a true dead end for asset owners that have invested heavily in a platform.
- Your software is limited to one turbine technology
Most OEMs provide their own monitoring and asset management tools, while some third-party software providers also specialise in a handful of turbine technologies.
This can bring benefits in terms of understanding performance in detail, but it does not reflect the make-up of modern wind portfolios, which are invariably made up of multiple turbine technologies from multiple OEMs.
- Your software is limited to one renewable energy technology
In the same vein, modern portfolios increasingly consist of multiple renewable technologies, including wind, solar, hydro and storage.
Portfolio owners may create data dead-ends for themselves by choosing different data platforms for each of their asset types that don’t interact or provide the wider global overview they need to support decision-making.
- You don’t get full access to your data
Restriction of data is a contentious issue in wind energy.
As predictive analytics approaches develop, for example, the industry’s understanding of how each individual variable influences overall performance increases. If OEMs make it difficult to access some of this data – or if your platform isn’t compatible with on-site systems – this naturally creates a dead-end by limiting the scope of performance improvements that can be realised.
- You don’t have the freedom to choose what works best
No monitoring, asset management or predictive analytics software is perfect – at least not yet – and this arguably means ‘dead ends’ are being encountered all of the time as owners test the limits of what is currently achievable.
These, however, are not true dead ends, for the reality is that the industry is just scratching the surface when it comes to digitalisation. What one service provider cannot yet do, another may well have achieved already. Surely the ideal approach provides all of the benefits and convenience of a single data management platform but enables owners to pick and choose the tools and services that best meet their needs, from across the industry.
Instead of creating data dead-ends by directing users down a particular avenue that may or may not meet their future needs, software and data platform providers need to take a more collaborative approach that opens doors, rather than closing them. This will give portfolio owners and service providers a better route for accessing the digital tools they need.
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