Why Lack of Data Standardization Is Slowing Digital Innovation in the Wind Industry

The lack of data standardization in the wind energy industry is slowing digital innovation. Operators are spending an immense amount of time collecting and trying to understand their data—and without the tools to analyze it and make actionable decisions, this time is often wasted.

With power prices falling globally and reduced operating margins, wind plant owners and operators need to spend less time on compiling their data and more time on actionable steps to improve AEP.

Data standardization is a key step for wind farms to produce energy at their full potential.

The Importance of Speaking a Common Language

The physical design of wind turbines is already well standardized. The wind industry is regulated by stringent standards regarding the design and manufacture of turbines. These standards boost confidence in the turbine’s structural integrity, especially when there is a third party to certify compliance with industry standards.

Design standards also ensure compatibility. Without global standards, the compatibility of product parts, like electrical connectors, from different OEMs is not guaranteed.

Standardization also can—and should—be applied to data. Industries that commit to data standardization see some significant benefits:

  • Data results are consistent and repeatable
  • Transparency and understanding of data, leading to actionable next steps
  • Cost and time savings associated with ease of interpreting data
  • Ease of accessibility, as the same codes or tags can be used repeatedly

The problem? Even with all of these clear-cut benefits, wind data standards compliance by OEMs is voluntary—OEMs are not required to adhere to any specific standards.

The Need for Regulated Data Standards

Design standardization is an essential part of the wind industry, so why aren’t we applying that same rigor to the data we collect? The lack of data standardization in the wind industry causes a range of problems, including:

  • The lack of a common language. Using different terminology within the field causes confusion. This can have a snowball effect, bringing about problems with signal processing or filtering.
  • No sample or update rate requirements. High-speed data is a key factor in the industry. Knowing the speed of the update rate on signals helps users to plan for what type of data will be accessible to view.
  • Variations in third-party data. With no standard interface for data storage and communication, project owners often partner with third-party companies, who use different methods of storage, compression, and access to data. Data analysis and visualization is affected by the lack of consistency in SCADA data from different OEMs—and sometimes even between different turbine models from the same OEM.
  • More time spent on data. These factors result in project owners and solution providers needing to expend extra effort to understand the data being presented to them.

Having universal data standards would allow for a common language to be used widely between all OEMS, users, and third-party software companies.

Next Steps Toward Standardization

Some SCADA data standards currently exist in the wind industry, but they are not widely recognized or used by OEMs.

An international study by industry insiders about the lack of data standards was assembled by the International Energy Agency, or IEA, in 2019, called Task 43 on Wind Energy Digitalization.

Key findings by the Task 43 team, TEM 92, were that advanced technology like machine learning and big data are held back by the lack of standardized datasets, and although standards are “critically important,” they are currently under-adopted and consist of an ill-defined patchwork.

Additionally, TEM 92 found that on average, 60–80% of current data analysis effort is “data wrangling,” and that open source tools, such as are used in other energy sectors, would drive community engagement, data sharing, and data standards.

Efforts to acquire and standardize data can add up, leaving little time for making use of that data or developing the analytics.

There is the added complexity that OEMs also "hide" certain data tags, bringing about entirely new segments of the wind industry to "unhide" them. Tags are hidden by OEMs for many reasons, including safety. However, having more transparency in the tags and more consistency in SCADA data would provide a much-needed boost to an industry faced with low operating margins.

For projects in the wind industry to continue to optimize performance and increase revenue, it is necessary for an international governing body such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to develop global data standards that OEMs and users alike can consistently operate within.

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