Sure, wind power adoption is growing world over.
As of end 2016, wind power will have about 500 GW of installed capacity worldwide – that’s a pretty impressive number, given that the total global electricity installed capacity is somewhere a bit north of 5.5 TW.
That sounds significant – almost 10% of the total electricity installed capacity – until you hear the contribution to the total electricity generation.
Wind power contributed less than 5% of the total electricity generated worldwide, in fact, it is closer to 3%.
Now, that’s not that awesome.
What is the reason for the gap – an installed capacity share of 10% vs generation share of just a 3rd of that?
Well, as many of you will know, this is owing to the fact that wind, unlike fossil fuel availability at a power plant, is infirm. This means that there are times when the wind blows well and the wind turbine can operate at full potential and there are other times when there is hardly any wind and the turbine just sits idle.
Software cannot do anything about the fundamental nature of a resource such as wind, but there are other aspects of wind power plants where software can play a significant role.
In fact, software can play an important role in every part of the wind power value chain.
Software can go a long way in first ensuring that we put up the wind farms in the best possible location to begin with; it can also assist in ensuring that the capital cost per MW of wind turbine is reduced to the extent possible; and once the wind turbine is up and running, software can ensure that the turbine not only operates at high efficiency, but also with as few breakdowns as possible. Finally, software can also assist in the overall wind project through asset management.
Let us have a closer look at software solutions powering the wind power sector.
Who are the Wind Power Sector Stakeholders Benefitting Most from Software?
Pretty much all the key stakeholders in the wind power value chain can benefit from software solutions:
- Wind farm investors
- Wind turbine OEMs
- Wind turbine installers
- Utilities & regulators
What are the types of solutions available for these stakeholders?
Software solutions for the wind power sector can be broadly classified into the following categories:
- Wind Assessment
- Forecasting & Scheduling
- O&M Software
- Software for Financial Analysis
- Other Software for Specific Requirements
Wind Assessment Software
Unlike Solar – which can be put up practically anywhere under the sun, tapping wind energy requires more analyses and assessment.
For wind power project developers and investors, it is critical to assess the proposed wind farm’s capability and feasibility before investing. Customized software tools that can predict the wind energy output for a given year and over its complete lifetime will be of significant assistance.
Wind assessment software will thus be quite useful for wind OEMs, designers and installers who need to make an assessment report while presenting to the potential client and such analysis will also be useful for wind turbine optimization to obtain the maximum yield. Such a report can also assist further steps in setting up a wind farm like obtaining finance and procuring approvals.
You can imagine how important the output from such a software would be. It will mean the difference between investing a few million dollars at the right site that delivers high generation for 20 years, or a wrong choice that will not only result in poor generation but also could result in higher maintenance costs, especially beyond the first five years – a lose-lose situation!
Forecasting & Scheduling Software
This software will be needed for existing wind power projects.
As wind power is a volatile energy changing very frequently in a given time period, several Governments are making wind energy forecasting and scheduling mandatory. Simulation of wind power generation data for a set period of say 6 months or 1 year is critical for the utilities to allocate grid resources for banking and transmission.
These hence require robust forecasting and scheduling, analytics and reporting software with advanced mathematical modelling techniques. These solutions usually try making accurate wind power forecasts using a Physical and Statistical approach – refining weather model inputs from a number of approved suppliers and enhancing the data.Use of such software by wind power plants can significantly minimize penalties from the grid operator.
In order to increase up time and improve energy production, 24X7 monitoring on wind farm performance is necessary. For this, a reliable O&M software is tool is important for any investor or developer – to take targeted action based on observed trends.
Such a software can assist wind turbine investors and developers in capturing the true potential of their assets.
These can also be in the form of a single interface SCADA monitoring solution that is remotely connected to wind farms resulting to optimize, monitor and analyse industry-scale wind energy portfolios.
Other Specific Software for Wind Farms
Certain wind turbine components like converters and generators require customized monitoring solutions and their performance need to be analysed in specific ways. Embedded software designs, O&M monitoring for specific turbine components can help in further analysis of predictive, preventive and corrective maintenance.
Further, software can also assist the small wind segment – either on rooftop or co-located with a house/property on the ground.
Case studies on how software benefits the wind industry:
U.S based renewable energy developer,Apex Clean Energy, invests in a video wall for their remote operations control centre to monitor in real-time data from multiple projects located across the country.
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- Apex Clean Energy is a large, US – based, independent renewable energy company, with a major share of their project portfolio in wind energy
- They decided to invest in a separate remote operations team, in 2014, as the only way to manage multiple projects, spread across the country
- The Remote Operations team initially did what every other monitoring team would do; Wind farm performance monitoring, SCADA system monitoring, reporting of downtimes, generation forecasting and others
- All these information was coming from various platforms
- To ease their monitoring activities, the company decided to go for a video wall through which the monitoring team could monitor real- time video and data from various platforms
- The video wall system consists of a large LCD display, controller and software
- The operations team now uses the video wall to monitor wind performance data, energy market prices, forecasting models, weather patterns and live camera feeds from wind farms
- Interestingly, the monitoring team can even get to see live videos of operator personnel on-site, and zoom in on their activities to ensure their safety
- Any alarms or alerts are also positioned on the video wall in such a way so as to attract immediate attention
- The video wall is also extremely useful to visualize specific content – be it in terms of wind power generation or downtimes in a plant – and present these to a client who walks in to the control room
Siemens’ remote diagnostics centre for its wind turbines oversees information transmitted from these and enables smart decision making.
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- Seimens has set up a remote diagnostics centre that oversees data from about 10000 of installed turbines – This is set up in Brande, Denmar in 2014
- Each Seimens turbine has about 300 sensors and information from these are transmitted to the monitoring centre where data analysts monitor it 24*7
- The remote diagnostics centre is equipped with a wall mounted display that can show the operational status of each turbine
- Data includes information on temperature, pressure, power, vibration status, position and turbine configurations
- Output and productivity status of each turbine – based on the data collected – can be conveyed to site personnel and turbine owner – through Siemens’ Wind Diagnostic App
- Specific advantage observed – data from vibration sensors pick up every possible anomaly and help analysts decide whether the installation needs to be shut down, remotely reset, or whether it can continue to operate until repairs are made – thereby optimising turbine performance
- Predictive capability specifically helps to cut down operational costs – avoiding visual inspection, extended downtimes and adding weeks of productive operations that would have been otherwise lost to repairs and maintenance activities
GE’s software platform specifically helps reduce wake losses in wind farms.
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- Wind energy from a wind farm would be more plentiful if all the wind turbines were to be placed in a single row and facing a steady wind direction
- But practically this is impossible because of external factors like land availability and this results in wind turbines being placed in several rows and closer together
- This kind of placement leads to “wake losses” – A wake refers to the reduced wind exposure of a turbine after extraction of energy by an upstream turbine from the incoming wind flow
- Reducing wake losses can contribute up to 0.5 – 2% power output increase from a wind farm
- Turbine controls today produce the maximum energy possible for themselves with little regard for the other turbines around them
- Wake control can help all the turbines work towards an optimum of energy generation at a wind farm.
- Wind plant wake management platform integrates data from turbine level and plant level controls along with data on actual wind conditions in the site
- Command signals are send from the platform to each turbine, in terms of its positioning and speed of rotation, in order to significantly reduce wake losses
- The software platform is intended to work along with existing control platforms of the plant
A Brief Glimpse of Companies Offering Wind Energy Software:
- Meteodyne WT : The software is specifically designed for wind farm resource assessment. The software takes into account the wind speed, direction, wind inflow angle, turbulence intensity, wind energy density, all specific to a particular site. Based on the wind data, the software simulates the energy production from existing or proposed wind farms.
- WAsP : The WAsP software suite is the specifically designed for , and for wind turbines and wind farms. The WAsP software suite can be used for sites located in all kinds of terrain all over the world. It can calculate energy yield for single wind turbines or wind farms, wind farm efficiency, wind resource and turbulence mapping, etc
- WindFarm : WindFarm software suite is a wind farm analysis, design and optimisation software. The suite consists of calculations enabled by sophisticated algorithms to optimise wind farms for increased energy or reduced cost of energy, subject to environmental and physical constraints.
- Meteo – Logic : The software provides forecasts for a whole wind site as well as for each turbine separately, allowing operators to predict the exact output in advance and plan accordingly. Meteo-Logic provides 5-day ahead hourly forecasts which reduce financial uncertainty while maximizing profits and reducing direct and indirect expenses. Weather forecasting is also made available to track temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and rain.
- Empuron Visual : The software is designed to supervise wind turbines centrally. It helps to access information on all wind farms – irrespective of its location- a single place. It presents and reports relevant data on actual conditions of each wind turbine, and the information is made accessible through a PC or mobile device