Supply chain among the top list of concerns for the wind industry

Posted on 17 Oct 2023 by The Manufacturer

A new report by ONYX Insight, the leading global predictive analytics solution provider, reveals that supply chain issues, OEM pressures and turbine reliability are the greatest challenges facing the wind industry, with digital adoption key to making meaningful improvements.

ONYX’s new Ever-Changing Winds report includes a global survey of wind turbine owner/operators summarising the current challenges, trends and opportunities facing senior leaders in the wind industry as it continues its growth.

Reliability, or lack of it, is impacting all asset owners. Nearly 50% of respondents foresee issues with both their existing fleet and brand new turbines coming off the production line.

Managing risk of equipment failures has always been part of wind farm operation and many historical issues have been addressed by new designs, but the speed of development alongside the relentless drive to reduce costs has introduced additional challenges.

According to the survey, the top five issues impacting turbine reliability are:

  • Ageing fleets
  • Rapid growth of turbine size and compressed design cycles for new turbine technologies
  • Cost reduction pressure on the supply chain
  • Declining profitability of Tier 1 turbine Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
  • A challenging economic environment

While the introduction of larger turbines has been the primary driver behind rapidly reducing Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE), it has exacerbated problems around reliability and to some extent masked inefficiencies in operations and maintenance (O&M). Part of the solution is greater, systematic adoption of automation and digital technologies across the full turbine lifecycle with a greater focus on whole-turbine PdM.

ONYX’s Ever-Changing Winds report underlines what progress has been made to digitalise assets. In 2020, 81% of respondents had barely started digitalisation efforts, but this figure more than halved to 36% in 2023. However, only 14% of respondents indicated their digitalisation of operations to be mature or market leading.

Key benefits from technology adoption, such as intelligent planning, additional turbine sensors, centralised data, advanced diagnostics and predictive analytics are still to be fully harnessed by the sector.

When it comes to supply chain problems and OEM challenges, survey participants are now citing lengthy delays on new projects due to longer lead times for the supply of new turbines and significant price increases. Similarly for major components – particularly main bearings on newer turbines with large rotor diameters – lengthy delays are leaving turbines offline for extended periods. Whilst these issues are creating challenges to operations teams, the biggest impact has been on OEMs, as evidenced in their recent financial results.

The ONYX report makes clear that technology advancements in predictive analytics and digitalised operations and maintenance are critical to improving the long-term cost-efficiency of the industry.

Report lead author Ashley Crowther, ONYX Insight’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “The wind industry faces a range of new challenges in the post-pandemic era. The supply chain, OEM headwinds and turbine reliability sit front and centre of the issues facing operators as they look to reduce O&M expenditure in the face of increasing financial pressures. Supply chain pressures are compounding reliability problems caused by ageing assets. However, challenges drive change and the industry can embrace technology to become more efficient. The best players are investing in digitalisation, as their leaders know they will otherwise be left behind.

“We need to embed more knowledge into digital technology and leverage the output. We need to leverage our data for decision making and know ahead of time where, when and what for parts, people and tools.

“It is clear from the report that there is a broad consensus that new predictive maintenance solutions are needed sooner rather than later. ONYX is working to develop the next generation of monitoring systems that will deliver a more complete picture for operators.”

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