Owners and operators of offshore wind projects need to accelerate adoption of digitalization in a bid to head off the impact of soaring costs and supply chain challenges, according to ONYX Insight, a provider of data analytics and engineering expertise to the global wind industry.
Despite the first offshore wind turbine being installed more than 30 years ago, and there being more than 55 GW of offshore wind capacity worldwide, now just under 30 percent of U.K. offshore wind farms are implementing linked-up digital tools across their operation beyond relatively basic condition monitoring.
Turbine manufacturers face pressure to deliver against full order books while keeping prices low. They are responding to this challenge by developing newer, larger turbines with greater power density and more complicated designs.
The speed of turbine technology development means banks and investors do not typically finance the same turbine model twice, resulting in a limited track record and potentially greater risk exposure for offshore asset owners. At the same time, asset owners are under increasing pressure to make projects profitable in a competitive auction environment.
Digitalization holds the key to de-risking new turbine technologies, keeping O&M costs low and unlocking new efficiencies in offshore wind.
For offshore in particular, there are savings to be made in optimizing marine logistics. Crew hire, offshore cranes, and jack-up vessels, for example, all come at high costs. By using digitalization, owners and operators can rationalize vessel trips and construct collaborative maintenance zones where wind farms in close proximity synchronize O&M needs, sharing the cost burden.
Digitalization can enable the introduction of condition-based maintenance, targeting minor repairs — which are typically overlooked, but account for about half of scheduled O&M costs and have significant potential for optimization. Additionally, by implementing coherent digital strategies early, operators can support life-extension strategies from Day 1, ensuring the offshore turbines of today keep performing optimally well into 2050.
“This is an exciting but challenging time for the offshore wind industry,” said Evgenia Golysheva, vice president of Strategy and Operations at ONYX Insight. “Huge demand for projects and a continual drive to lower the levelized cost of energy is squeezing turbine manufacturers, who are reporting enormous losses, limiting their ability to scale up and innovate. Given the precariousness of the macroeconomic situation, coupled with rocketing project demand all over the world, and the effect that this combination is having on supply chains, digitalization presents offshore wind operators and owners with a chance to empower their operations and increase efficiencies, independent of other industry stakeholders.”
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