A better structure for effective wind farm management

You've planned, collected and connected your renewable power to the grid. What now?

Over the last year, we’ve talked about planning a wind farm, collecting the power, connecting it to the grid, and servicing your assets. What we haven’t talked about yet is how to effectively operate and commercially exploit your farm. We both know what a challenge that is.

One of the big issues is the variability of wind and the resulting adverse impact on your generation portfolio:  energy demand cycles, fluctuations in power pricing, health of your generation assets, and the optimal mix of fuel source. That’s a lot of variables, and monitoring them produces a lot of data. To maximize the efficiency of your farm, you need to capture and evaluate all of that data.

Then there is the geographic spread of most wind farms to consider. The people who operate coal, nuclear, and hydro plants have a relatively compact and easily connected physical plant. Utility-scale wind farms, on the other hand, typically have a broad footprint that may cover many square miles.

That geographic dispersal, combined with the amount of data required and the dynamic nature of that data, is encouraging operators of wind farms as well as other power generation facilities to seriously rethink the structure of their organizations. We are seeing a convergence of the information technology (IT) functions with the operations technology (OT) functions. Operators and portfolio managers are identifying new ways to collect, analyze and deliver operational data so they can make smarter decisions about farm operation.

When developing the tools to manage these analytics and deliver actionable information, many utilities try to expand their existing tools and technology. They usually find that’s not the best answer. Just as the simple bookkeeping software used by a one-man business can’t manage the complexity of a larger organization, the systems designed to manage traditional power gen facilities aren’t up to the requirements of wind farm operations.

It takes a unified IT/OT organization, supported by a purpose-designed asset management system, to achieve optimum wind farm efficiency and production.
photo credit: Alexander Steinhof via photopin cc

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About the author

Dennis Mckinley

Hi, I'm Dennis Mckinley, head of Wind Power for ABB North America. ABB provides a lot of pieces and parts into the wind industry. My job is to present all ABB’s wind solutions to you as one, comprehensive package. I've been with ABB for nearly 3 decades. My background is in engineering from Franklin University and Rochester Institute of Technology.
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