As part of my activities at HSR, last week I attended the Research and Innovation Workshop of ETIP Wind, the European Technology & Innovation Platform on Wind Energy. Attendees included top engineers and managers at European research institutes such as ECN, DTU Wind Energy, NTU Athens, ForWind and WindForS as well as wind turbine manufacturers such as Vestas, Enercon and Envision and operators/developers such as Statoil and Orsted (previously Dong).

These are the top five topics that are being talked about right now:

1. Open access data

Who isn't talking about Big Data right now? Well, wind turbines produce lots of the stuff - and always have done. The standard SCADA systems produce ten-minute average, standard deviation, maximum and minimum values of at least 30 parameters over their lifetime of 20 years - that's already 1.2 billion data points per wind turbine. For an operator with 1,000 wind turbines in their fleet, we're talking about 1.2 trillion data points. Often, these wind turbines can actually be set up to record 1 Hz data - that's one data point per second. Then we would already be at 800 trillion data points.


What happen with all this data? Well, that entirely depends on gets their hands on it. The owners and operators often do not have the ressources, money or motivation to go through all this data in detail, and tend to focus on emergency shut-downs as well as monthly production data. The wind turbine manufacturers (OEMs) are starting to realise the huge potential of collecting all this data and learning from it (for example Siemens and GE). However, the OEMs are not prepared to share any of this data as this may give away key information about their wind turbine designs.

The wind energy research and innovation community has identified this data confidentiality as one of the key difficulties i reducing the costs of wind energy today. The general consensus is that increasing the amount of shared data would allow a variety of different experts, scientists, engineers and organisations to combine their resoureces in oder to make large steps in understanding and improving the operation of wind farms and thus significantly reducing the costs of energy. Several suggestions were made to alleviate this problem, such as the development of a research wind farm and the introduction of international policies to encourage data sharing,

2. Digitalisation

Who isn't talking about "smart", "IoT" and "digitalisation" right now? The wind energy community is, too! Digitalisation can help reduce wind energy costs in several different ways, including:

  • Improving productivity through forecasting, intelligent control and smart operations

  • Extending the lifetime through better maintenance and improved materials

  • Decreasing operation and maintenance costs through control strategies and new tools for business reporting

  • Decreasing investment costs through data-driven design and smart tools for manufacturing

  • Improving the value of energy through fleetwide control, turbine control and optimising market operations and power trading

ETIP Wind has published a cool document about this, "When wind goes digital":


3. The "mindful" wind turbine

The community has a vision of a wind turbine that is totally aware of its surroundings and its internal operations - and can react to all this in real-time in order to optimise its operation whilst at the same time minimising human interaction. I call this the "mindful" wind turbine. For this, the following innovations were discussed:

  • Smart, cost-effective, multi-functional sensors

  • Cloud platforms to allow system integration

  • Real-time control systems

  • Improved machine learning for predictive maintenance


4. The next generation 20 MW offshore floating wind turbine

The next generation 20 MW offshore floating wind turbine was also a hot topic. A presentation of the results of the recent EU project, was made. This project involved the design of state-of-the-art 10 and 20 MW wind turbines. The main focus was on the 20 MW floating offshore horizontal axis wind turbine, generally seen as the vision for the next 10-15 years by the community. Some innovations required to realise this were discussed:

  • Installation method

  • Simplified mooring

  • Concrete substructure

  • Energy harvesting

  • Marine operations & logistics


5. Grid integration and stability of power system

The final top five topic was grid integration and stability of the power system. This is obviously becoming more and more important as the proportion of electricity from wind energy is increasing (currently 11.6%). Topics discussed included:

  • Cost compensation

  • Distributed intelligence / digitalisation

  • Extreme events resilience

  • System stability

  • System value of wind

  • Cost sharing

  • Forecasting

  • Smart grids

  • Storage and hybrid integration, combination and grid code compliance

  • Grid expansion into remote areas


What next?

If you are interested in talking about digitalisation applied to wind energy, please get in touch with me below. I combine my experience in wind energy with that of the Institute for Energy Technology at HSR as well as the DigitalLab@HSR.