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Digital & Data 01/09/2021

Cleaner, Faster, Safer: The Technologies That Help Renewables Work Better

A multitude of inspection and maintenance solutions are partly what has made renewables an affordable alternative to polluting fossil fuels. 

As countries’ dependence on low-carbon technologies increases, so does the need for solutions to make operations more efficient, safer and more reliable

As the energy transition continues to accelerate, the most prominent renewable sources, like wind and solar power, are rightfully hailed as the “clean engine” to help reverse planetary warming. However, one often overlooked driver of the green revolution are the many sub-technologies that support, maintain and secure the exploitation of renewable energy sources.

Indeed, as countries’ dependence on low-carbon technologies increases, so does the need for solutions to make operations more efficient, safer and more reliable. Ranging from AI-driven monitoring of wind turbines to self-cleaning solar-panel systems, a multitude of inspection and maintenance solutions are partly what has made renewables an affordable alternative to polluting fossil fuels.

Here are a few examples of new breakthroughs making renewables run better:

Offshore wind monitoring


A public-private Scottish consortium has designed a mooring line fatigue tracker that monitors offshore floating wind turbines to minimize the need for in-person inspections.

  • Funded by the Scottish government, Aberdeenshire-based engineering consultancy AS Mosley and Dutch geo-intelligence company Fugro worked with the University of Strathclyde to create a tracker that fuses the motion and position measurements of floating hulls with a simulation model to monitor fatigue.
  • The aim of the project is to replace the current five-year inspection regime — which typically requires vessels and remotely operated vehicles — with an on-demand system under which mooring line fatigue is continuously tracked.
  • The constant monitoring would also allow for instant detection of problems or failure scenarios such as anchor drag or trawler snagging.
  • The partners have already demonstrated the technology and now seek to work with floating wind developers to trial the solution offshore.

AI wind forecasting In the U.S., DeepMind,

The artificial intelligence subsidiary of Google, has combined weather and power data to better predict wind production on its 700 megawatts wind farm.

  • Through a neural network trained on publicly available weather forecasts and historical turbine data, Google configured the DeepMind system to predict wind-power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation. Based on these predictions, the model recommends how to make optimal hourly delivery commitments to the power grid a full day in advance.
  • While Google has already achieved an initial environmental milestone by matching its annual energy use with renewable-energy procurement, the company hopes that machine learning will help achieve its broader goal of being carbon-free in every location at every hour.
  • Already, the gathered data has resulted in a 20% increase in revenue for U.S. wind farms.

ENGIE EYE

Virtual Reality Inspection ENGIE has developed a virtual reality and web-mapping application to better monitor electric transmission systems during the Covid pandemic.

  • In Brazil, the Gralha Azul Transmission System extends for 1,000 kilometers and passes through 27 municipalities in the state of Parana. During the pandemic’s lockdowns, the necessary frequent field inspections have become a real challenge.
  • ENGIE’s Brazilian team developed a virtual reality solution last year to remotely manage field activities, monitor construction and environmental programs as well as conduct routine inspections.
  • Field inspectors used 360° cameras to record videos that were shared with the management team via Youtube. The 10,000 video inspections conducted in 2020 were uploaded to a web-mapping program and made available in VR format to give a more precise idea of the situation on the ground.
  • In addition to allowing frequent inspections during the pandemic, the VR system — an 2021 Innovation Trophy project — also cut emissions from road transport and reduced the risk of transportation accidents common in remote areas.

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