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Renewable energy digitalisation to reduce O&M costs

UNITED STATES: The market for digital services in renewable energy in the US is set to grow to $91.7 billion by 2027, according to a new report.

The cost of servicing wind power assets could reach $1,000/MW per month by 2027, Totaro & Associates forecast
The cost of servicing wind power assets could reach $1,000/MW per month by 2027, Totaro & Associates forecast

Digitally enhanced services for wind power could reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs as well as the levelised cost of energy (LCOE), consultancy Totaro & Associates believes.

Prices could rise as digital services become more beneficial to renewable energy assets, the consultants state in the Renewable Energy Digitalization Innovation report.

The cost of servicing wind power assets could reach $1,000/MW per month by 2027, while relevant costs for solar and energy storage assets could reach $700/MW per month and $600/MW per month, respectively.

But despite this per-MW cost rising, the O&M cost impact on a per-kWH basis is set to decrease by approximately 24% from current levels in the next five years, and by 31% by 2027, Totaro & Associates forecasts.

State of play

More than 61GW of wind power assets in the US – from a total installed capacity of more than 90GW – are due to be under contract for at least one monitoring service by the end of 2018, the consultants found.

No one company is dominant in providing digital services for renewable energy, and the market is growing rapidly, the consultancy’s CEO Philip Totaro stated. The number of companies that had publicly announced they were engaged in the digital transformation of renewable energy assets has risen from fewer than 50 two years ago to more than 200 today.

Amid such fierce competition, strategic investments and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the sector are likely to continue in 2018, Totaro & Associates forecast.

Challenges

The sector faces other challenges, however, including the patenting of key technologies creating barriers to companies looking to gain a foothold in the market, a lack of standards within the sector, as well as data security, and how it pertains to renewable energy, still requiring further definition and development.

Meanwhile, OEMs have strengthened their intellectual property (IP) position for key functional capabilities of digital services, and this creates significant commercial risk for data analytics companies, the consultants added.

Nevertheless, asset owners and even insurance companies in the renewable energy industry are likely to see commercial benefit from partnerships with analytics companies, Totaro & Associates concluded.

Deals

In February, Invenergy signed a predictive analytics deal to use Internet of Things (IoT) company NarrativeWave’s software on its 4GW-plus fleet of wind turbines.

That same month turbine manufacturer Vestas agreed to acquire energy analytics company Utopus Insights.

Meanwhile, in January, predictive analytics firm Uptake Wind, which has previously installed software on Pattern Energy and Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s wind fleets, reported that approximately 12TWh of wind energy is lost to downtime each year in the US.

Unsurprisingly, it concluded that this loss could be reduced "by using predictive analytics software to identify critical maintenance issues before they happen and taking proactive actions".

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