On its official website, WindEurope association posted materials of the "Breaking New Ground" wind energy summit held at the end of September. For the opening plenary session, WindEurope invited several keynote speakers who shared their thoughts on digitalization (digital revolution) and impact on the wind sector, including Marc Berg, CEO of Intelligent Apps, Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General at ENTSO-E; Ward Thomas, CEO at Sentient Science; Henrik Stiesdal, CEO at Stiesdal; and Aidan Cronin, Chairman at ETIP Wind. Attendees also got the chance to hear from Geoffrey Parker, digital platform specialist and co-author of "Platform Revolution", who joined via teleconference from Florida.
Digitalisation is a real 'buzz word' in wind energy these days – and the number of attendees at the summit manifested a huge interest in this topic. From sensors and weather prediction tools to system integration, the wind industry already uses a lot of data – but there is debate regarding the extent of possibilities of applying such data arrays. The control of data through digitalisation can help anticipate faults in wind turbines, allowing predictive rather than preventive maintenance. It is set to make system integration even easier and bring down its costs. But, as in other sectors, an increased use of data does not come without challenges: digitalisation brings its own set of challenges (ownership of data stored and processed), and puts the cybersecurity issue (dealing with attacks against the capacity used) on top of the list.
The event's main objective was to formulate an answer to the question: so how can the wind industry fully leverage the digital revolution?
Marc Berg explained that big data could become an essential driver for development: "By creating a better product experience, we increase our number of customers. An increased number of customers means more data, which in turn keeps improving product experience."
Ward Thomas stated: "Platforms can give so much predictability that they can really bring costs down."
Laurent Schmitt stressed the importance of using this opportunity holistically: "linking digitalisation with electric vehicles and data centres”, beyond fixed and long-term PPAs".
Henrik Stiesdal added: "While every company working in the wind industry uses advanced digital models and tools, the idea of platform has not yet been fully implemented. What we are doing will have a profound impact. Not only will data allow us to make better predictions but also to learn from the behaviour of an entire fleet".
Aidan Cronin reminded the attendees that the right approach to data would be key to the success of digitalisation: "It is crucial to find the balance between digitalisation’s potential and the challenges it poses, such as the question of ownership".
The panellists were joined by Patrick Child, Deputy Director General for Research & Innovation at the European Commission and EU representative of the Mission Innovation Steering Committee. Child echoed the view that digitalisation will revolutionise how wind energy works, in Europe and beyond. He is positive that: "Wind energy is a major European success story. But for this success story to continue, we need a stronger focus on digitalisation, increased & more targeted research and innovation funding". Mr Child closed the session with the promise that "The wind industry can count on the EU to do its share".
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