Summary

In outward appearance, wind turbines still resemble technology from the future. To watch one up close, silently drawing invisible energy from the air, is to witness the stuff of science fiction. Of course, these gleaming carbon fiber monoliths have been around for decades—a fact that’s all too evident behind the scenes.         

Challenges facing the Renewables industry

Every year, wind farm operators lose countless kilowatt-hours to unplanned downtime, operational inefficiency, and inaccurate forecasting. At the same time, schedule-based maintenance and an incomplete picture of asset health are shaving years off the lives of turbines valued at millions of dollars. With rising demand from consumers and a need to optimize the energy mix and costs, the industry is facing mounting pressure to resolve these challenges and drive greater operational efficiencies.

For most industrial companies, these are familiar problems.

Whether your business is energy, chemicals, or aerospace, being competitive in the digital age depends increasingly on adopting a more sophisticated, data-driven approach to managing assets, measuring risk, and making informed business decisions.

Leaders in renewable energy are now applying learning from these adjacent markets to advance their own digital industrial transformation. Renewables are prime for digital transformation, and will create new economic opportunities for wind operators and new levels of productivity.

When a wind turbine experiences an unexpected power decrease, operators must dispatch technicians to manually diagnose and resolve the problem. Anomalies often go undetected until they’re discovered in the course of scheduled maintenance. The absence of real-time information to perform preventative maintenance can lead to catastrophic failures that could easily be avoided. And a lack of data-driven forecasting leaves wind farms unable to adapt to changing weather patterns and grid demand.   

The power of IIoT technology

Fortunately, these trends are beginning to shift as wind farm operators embrace the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and digital solutions. Embedded sensor data, combined with robust analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are making turbines intelligent and unlocking new levels of productivity.  They operate more reliably, generate more energy, increased revenues and are cheaper to maintain.     

Rather than sending technicians into hazardous or remote environments to identify a gearbox malfunction or drivetrain problem, connected sensors can detect issues automatically. AI-enabled software can then suggest a recommended course of action. Oftentimes, malfunctioning equipment can be reset remotely without the need for human intervention.     

The digital wind farm solutions built on Predix Platform, a distributed, secure, edge-to-cloud platform that powers industrial applications, enable operators to more effectively grapple with the intermittency of wind energy. In order to capture maximum power, wind turbines need to react in real time to changing velocity and direction. At the same time, turbine operators need to balance fluctuating grid demand to avoid congestion or surplus. Fundamentally, this all boils down to a data analytics problem—one that Predix Platform is purpose built to address.    

Physics-based modeling combined with data science and AI, allows wind farm operators to mitigate unplanned downtime and increase asset life.

By building a digital twin that uses both historical data and real-time telemetry to predict asset failure, organizations can adopt a proactive maintenance model to extend life of an asset, and that keeps minor problems from turning into major ones. 

The digital wind farm is being deployed gloabally with many customers, delivering a 10 % reduction in maintenance costs, up to 10 % AEP growth, and about a 3 % increase in revenue.

Digital industrial transformation is seldom easy, but for companies hoping to remain competitive in an age of constant disruption, it is a necessity. To deliver on the promise of clean, renewable energy at scale, wind farms must become digital wind farms, and GE is uniquely suited to helping organizations through the toughest parts of the learning curve.

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The Digital Wind Farm

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The Next Evolution of Wind Energy

Since entering the wind industry in 2002, GE Renewable Energy has invested more than $2 billion in next-generation wind turbine technology to provide more value to customers--whether at the turbine, plant, or grid level.

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The World's First Digital Wind Farm

Offered as a part of GE's expanded services agreements, the Digital Wind Farm is a comprehensive hardware and software solution comprised of our customizable 2MW and 3MW wind turbine products, and a suite of applications, built on the Predix* software platform, that brings new value to your wind farm.

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About the author

Sanjeev Addala

Chief Digital Officer, GE Renewable Energy

Sanjeev Addala is the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) for GE Renewable Energy. As CDO, he leads the Industrial Internet transformation for the renewables industry and ensures GE Renewable Energy has digital business strategies, execution delivery, SW portfolio offerings, investments, digital platforms, and commercial strategies to support customers and key business strategies. Previously, he served as CDO for Caterpillar and has 25 years of experience of successfully formulating and executing the Strategic Business/Technology vision roadmaps, as well as a track record of developing and leading high performing teams to initiate business growth and innovation. He holds a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has also completed the Executive Leadership program at Duke University.

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