A lack of universal definitions and metrics is making it hard to compare the host of digital applications now being used in the wind industry and measure their benefits, said WindEurope as it called for a shared vision of digitalisation for the sector.

A new report from the industry body, Wind Digitalisation Towards 2030 – Cost reduction, better performance, safer operations, sets out to define major digital applications in wind O&M and turbine manufacturing and construction, in a bid to aid comparison of their potential benefits and challenges.

“There is no broadly accepted method of collecting, transmitting and reading operational data coming from wind turbines by different OEMs,” the report states.

“Given the lack of standardisation in comparing and analysing information, and the increasing complexity of wind farm operations, it is very difficult to compare benefits from different digital applications.”

Confirming those statements, Hitachi Energy’s global digital portfolio leader Jamie Stapleton added that digitalisation is a key factor in accelerating the electrification of energy demand but it can’t be championed by one single company.

"Given the increasing complexity of wind farm operations, it is very difficult to understand and compare benefits from different digital applications," Stapleton said.

"This report aims to provide expert guidance and leverages the insights of various stakeholders across the wind sector ecosystem.”

The report also notes the role of generic technologies underpinning many applications such as 'big data' and 5G technology.

With deployment of digital technologies increasing sharply and seen as crucial to the industry's future, WindEurope makes a set of recommendations as a ‘vision’ towards a digital wind sector by 2030.

Those are:

  • Develop reliable universal metrics and knowledge sharing platforms to understand the benefits of digital applications.
  • Develop a universal wind data standard going into the necessary level of detail, complementing currently deployed international standards.
  • Establish efficient data sharing practices within organisations and with third parties supported by a universal wind data standard and adequate contractual templates.
  • Validate the technologies and make them transferable to different contexts at low cost thanks to well-established data sharing practices.
  • Develop the necessary skills combining digitalisation and wind technology expertise with dedicated study programmes in universities and workforce training course.

WindEurope in the report identifies key technologies in digitalisation for the wind industry as real-time analysis, 'Internet of Things' gateways, diagnostic analytics, prescriptive analytics and automation.

It added that each one of these includes various tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, condition monitoring, robotics, augmented reality, and digital twinning, which are often combined to enable the various applications.

The report also presents several case studies of deployed technologies showing how digitalisation has already transformed the wind sector.

UPDATED to add a comment by Hitachi Energy