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ECN develops new system for wind farm operations

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The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) has developed a new system for wind farm operations and maintenance which is set to significantly reduce costs
ECN develops new system for wind farm operations

The system was developed using data from energy company Essent/RWE. It efficiently collects and analyses data from offshore wind farms and is used to continuously improve the cost reduction strategy for operations and maintenance.

Operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts for approximately 25 percent of the costs of offshore wind farms which, at 0.03 euros per kilowatt hour, is relatively high compared to costs for onshore wind farms.

“These costs can be reduced by a third in the space of ten years” said Glen Donnelly of ECN Business Development. “In view of the predicted growth in offshore wind energy in the years ahead, cost reductions are of major importance. If you can build up a long term and smart database of operational data and are able to analyse it quickly and effectively, you have invaluable information for a sophisticated O&M strategy.”

Achieving costs reductions calls for the use of innovative tools and processes, however ECN's Operations & Maintenance System is now ready for launch and will enable the industry to run offshore wind farms at lower costs.

Wind farms produce large quantities of data collected and sent by hundreds of sensors on the turbines and also by technicians and engineers working on them. The data relates to issues such as breakdowns, repairs, spare parts, engineers reports, loads placed on turbines and how long different components will last. This is then collected within the O&M system and organized for fast processing. Better preventative maintenance in particular can help prevent sudden breakdowns and damage, thereby cutting costs. Essent/RWE is providing ECN with operational data to test the O&M system using real information.

“Thanks to our years of experience managing and maintaining offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom, we can contribute to ECN's advanced O&M system, designed to meet the needs of cost-conscious operators” added Niels Bijkersma, project manager at RWE Innogy.

A smart database will enable wind farm operators to, for example, plan exactly how many working boats will be necessary, how many people need to be in the maintenance team, what components should be kept in stock and when maintenance must be scheduled. Most importantly it allows a long-term process of continuous cost saving improvements over the wind farms operating lifetime. According to Glen Donnelly this knowledge can result in significant cost savings and prevent turbines breaking down unexpectedly and failing to supply energy.

Reducing the costs of offshore wind is an essential condition for achieving the ambitions of the Dutch National Energy Agreement entered into last year. This set a target of 4,450MW of electricity from offshore wind by 2023. The target is based on a cost price that decreases consistently over time. The O&M system is an important contributor to enabling cost price reduction and has been developed within the FLOW programme which aims to achieve cost reductions for large offshore wind farms and stimulate Dutch companies to innovate.

For additional information:

Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN)

Essent/RWE

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