Blog: O&M Europe 2019 Review

Blog: O&M Europe 2019 Review

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Harnessing Big Data and Life Extension Key to Growing The Renewables Sector

BGB’s Alex Pucacco, Wind O&M sales, recently visited the O&M Europe exhibition in Munich, and offers his comments and observations from the week:

Life extension

There was a lot of commentary surrounding life extension of older wind farms across Europe. Currently there is a lot of disparity between different turbine OEMs, countries of operation and the owners’ practices themselves. The practice of extending the life of a wind farm is still in its relative infancy when you consider there is now over 600GW of wind turbines in operation.

Between the guarded experiences shared between the panellists, it shows that the box-ticking nature of inspections and due diligence carried out in the interest of obtaining insurance and certification is still considered best practice. The argument for this, is that every country is different and the industry sets out very rough guidelines to offer flexibility and pragmatism in what is still an inexact science. The question remains for me though, how big is the failure going to be for the wind industry to have cause to readdress the guidelines?

Bad weather days

One interesting area arising from some conversations with wind farms operators is the use of technicians during bad weather days, with many businesses seeking ways to get the most out of their resources during downtime by investing in adapting warehouse space into workshop areas where staff can refurbish components, such as slip rings.

This is a welcome development and it solves two issues of reducing waste coming from the wind farm and giving technicians productive tasks on weather days. Too often slip rings are viewed as consumables and scrapped after they have been removed from the turbine when there is still some service life remaining through component replacement and refurbishment.

We do a lot of repairs at BGB and we see slip rings come through the business that have been repaired four, sometimes five times. Unfortunately, we also see a number of units that have undergone unsuccessful repairs. When you consider that a refurbished slip ring is only about 50% of the cost of a new unit, before technicians start work make sure a proper assessment is carried out and don’t be afraid to call in the professionals who have the machines and the correct spare parts.

Big data

Unfortunately, despite all of the noise around big data in the renewables sector, in my opinion nobody is doing enough to make the most of their data, systems or processes. Vibration and SCADA analysis is a well-established technology and yet we still continue to walk the same ground and claim discovery. The end game of wholistic predictive maintenance and generation is an area where we will undoubtedly see greater innovation as the renewables sector continues to mature at a time when data companies are topping the richest companies lists our timing couldn’t be better. However, the challenge of better managing the variable nature of wind and solar energy, both in terms of reliability and generation, continues to attract a growing number of technology providers but as far I can see we are a way off data nirvana yet.

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