In recent years, the offshore wind industry has evolved rapidly, making significant strides in reducing costs and developing groundbreaking technologies. However, one critical piece of this puzzle remains unsolved: efficient and open data sharing.
Sharing the data in the offshore wind industry is productive and would benefit the whole industry. Sharing information between all parties along the supply chain would help them work together more effectively and build better turbines in the future.
The concept is simple yet transformative. Sharing data across the offshore wind supply chain could revolutionize how we build and operate turbines, leading to more efficient, powerful, and environmentally friendly energy solutions. This is not just an idea; it’s a necessity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we must increase our annual offshore wind capacity from 75 GW in 2022 to an astounding 350 GW by 2030.
Data Sharing in the Offshore Wind Industry Can Drive Innovation
Currently, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of offshore wind turbines collect vast amounts of data on the performance of their devices, including wind speed, direction and turbulence, oil temperature, vibration and power generation. However, this valuable data is generally kept private by each company. OEMs have resisted sharing their data for various reasons, including wanting to monetise their data, fear of exposing design flaws, and, above all else, protecting intellectual property and commercial advantage.
While the focus on intellectual property and competitive advantage is understandable in a world where profit and growth usually count above all, it is also short-sighted. Data sharing in offshore wind would allow innovation-hungry players to use the data to help develop innovative solutions to help grow the industry. In turn, innovation would boost the sector, bringing more business and rapid growth to everyone involved.
Analysis has shown that managing wind turbines with data-driven software could increase energy production by 16%. It would also allow operators to increase the running speed of turbines when the wind allows, thereby further improving energy output by 10%.
Moreover, data-driven predictive maintenance could cut wind-farm maintenance costs by 10% and reduce the number of costly inspections. For example, sharing data on vibration, temperature, and grease sample particles would allow operators to avoid expensive gearbox failures by comparing data to previous failures. Access to shared data would enable companies to undertake more detailed load analyses of turbines. This analysis would ensure that support structures are designed appropriately and suitable for installation.
Such figures are staggering and demonstrate the enormous potential of data sharing to transform the offshore wind industry. Currently, 95% of offshore wind capacity still needs to be built to reach the IEA’s 2050 targets. Therefore, data sharing would speed up the expansion of the industry and allow it to contribute significantly toward a carbon-neutral world.
Data Sharing Solutions Already Exist
Crucially, solutions exist that allow data sharing in offshore wind without compromising intellectual property. For example, the UK’s System Performance, Availability and Reliability Trend Analysis (SPARTA) collects anonymous operational data from 94% of the UK’s offshore wind capacity to share with the industry. Also, in the US Wind Network for Enhanced Reliability (WinNER) network, offshore wind operators provide anonymous data on turbine health and compare data against the wider industry. While these networks are a positive start, more regional and, ideally, a global initiative is required to drive innovation and scale up the industry quickly.
In addition, some companies are making it easier for OEMs to share data for the benefit of the whole industry. Akselos is one such company. We can implement our digital twin software to allow OEMs to access only their respective data while allowing a fully integrated load analysis of the foundation and turbine in a single model. Combined with the speed and accuracy of our software, this allows for a step-change in design optimisation, which in turn is vital to bring down the cost for lower Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).
We’re All in This Together
The potential for data sharing in the offshore wind industry is vast and largely untapped. The sector can unlock a new era of collaboration and innovation by overcoming intellectual property and competition concerns. The success stories of SPARTA and WinNER, along with the pioneering approach of companies like Akselos, illustrate the feasibility and benefits of this approach. As the demand for sustainable energy solutions increases, the offshore wind sector stands at a critical juncture.
Embracing data sharing can accelerate technological advancements, reduce costs, and significantly contribute to achieving global net-zero emissions targets. The future of offshore wind, therefore, hinges not just on the strength of the winds it harnesses but on the openness and collaboration among its key players. This shift towards shared knowledge and resources could be the catalyst that propels the industry to new heights, ensuring a cleaner, more sustainable world for future generations.