Global energy demand continues to grow at an alarming pace. Energy is the backbone for industry and commerce, and needs to be reliable and affordable. Growing environmental concerns including GHG emissions from thermal plants, radioactive waste management from nuclear plants and destruction of ecological systems in hydro power plants has increased the focus on renewable energy sources. Driven by above factors wind and solar energy generation has become a key focus areas in most developed and developing nations. Here we focus on wind which has a global installed capacity of 320GW and solar photo voltaic with a current capacity of around 100GW. Wind and solar are witnessing compounded growth rates of over 20%, during the last five years and likely to continue to grow at this pace based on current global projections.
Wind and solar installations require larger upfront capital cost compared to fossil fuel based generators. Governments around the world have offered tax benefits & subsidies to boost investments in this sector.
Policies like Feed-In Tariffs (FiTs) are being adopted that incentivize power producers to maximize their power generation. As there are no fuel costs, additional generation from wind and solar plants results in direct bottom line impact. So, how can we maximize generation from wind and solar plants, is often the question. The answer – “data analytics”. Wind farms and solar plants, generate huge amounts of data from sensors placed at various points which can report under-performance, predict failure and almost answer the question – has revenue been maximized.
Today, the bane of wind and solar operators is excessive unscheduled maintenance resulting in unnecessary costs or lack of maintenance resulting in downtime and revenue loss. A review of the study conducted by Sandia laboratories [a part of National Renewable Energy Laboratory, United States]  clearly shows significant benefits of using a computerized system in analyzing trends and predicting failures using the data generated from the wind farm and solar plants. This report estimates that computerized maintenance can result in a revenue improvement of 5% to 10%.
Wind and solar plants have sensors and Supervisory Control and Data Access (SCADA) systems of varying degrees of sophistication. The SCADA system collects data from sensors and stores it locally. The sensors on a wind farm collect information like wind speed, wind direction, temperature, rotations per minute of the rotor, generator information like voltage, currents and frequency. Similarly in solar plants information of in-plane irradiation, surface temperature, string current and inverter output power are collected. To put the amount of data generated by a turbine in perspective – there are over 100 sensors on a single wind turbine and the sensors generate data at the rate of 2000 values per minute resulting in about 1 Terabyte (1,048,576 Kilo Bytes) of data in a week. Similarly, a 5MW solar plant also has about 200 sensors which generate about 1 Terabyte of data in a week. Wind turbine and solar plants therefore require Big Data solutions..
Join us as we discuss how big data can improve performance of wind and solar plants..