Digitalisation Could Help Offshore Wind Players Combat Supply Chain Challenges – ONYX Insight

Owners and operators of offshore wind projects need to accelerate their adoption of digitalisation in an attempt to decrease the impact of soaring costs and supply chain challenges, according to the data analytics and engineering expertise provider ONYX Insight.

Digitalisation could mitigate the impact of soaring coasts and supply chain challenges while enhancing productivity, says ONYX Insight, and yet only 20 per cent of top global offshore asset owners are making full use of digitalisation while under 30 per cent of UK offshore wind farms are implementing linked-up digital tools across their operation beyond relatively basic condition monitoring, according to the company.

ONYX Insight claims that turbine manufacturers face pressure to deliver against full order books while keeping prices low and that they respond to this challenge by rapidly developing newer, larger turbines with greater power density and more complicated designs.

The speed of turbine technology development means that banks and investors do not typically finance the same turbine model twice, resulting in a limited track record and potentially greater risk exposure for offshore asset owners, according to ONYX Insight.

At the same time, asset owners are under pressure to make projects profitable in a competitive auctions environment.

“For offshore wind owners and operators, larger turbines are driving down LCOE, and therefore masking existing inefficiencies in offshore O&M. Larger projects, complicated ownership structures and an increasingly competitive environment mean that currently adopted tools and approaches will be difficult to scale”, said Evgenia Golysheva, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at ONYX Insight.

Digitalisation could hold the key to de-risking new turbine technologies, keeping operations and maintenance (O&M) costs low, and unlocking new efficiencies in offshore wind.

“Asset owners seeking to deliver the very best returns on their projects need to look at potential of digital tools to reduce OPEX as early as the project planning stage, designing their operational processes and supporting digital systems at the same time and not implementing sometimes random and often duplicated selections of tools as an afterthought”, said Golysheva.  

Savings could be made by optimising marine logistics as well. For example, crew hire, offshore cranes, and jack-up vessels, all come at high costs, says ONYX Insight, and by using digitalisation, owners and operators could rationalise vessel trips and construct collaborative maintenance zones, where wind farms in close proximity synchronise O&M needs, sharing cost burden.

According to the company, digitalisation can enable the introduction of condition-based maintenance, targeting minor repairs which are typically overlooked, but account for approximately half of scheduled O&M costs and have significant potential for optimisation.

Additionally, by implementing coherent digital strategies as early as possible, operators could support life-extension strategies from day one, ensuring that the offshore wind turbines of today keep performing optimally well into 2050, said ONYX Insight.

“Installing digital tools that monitor performance, predict and detect faults and control maintenance implementation – in drivetrain, blades, structures and beyond – can maximise power output and reduce OPEX, helping to drive down LCoE in a long-term sustainable way”, said Golysheva.

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Photo: Artistic illustration of wind turbines at Dogger Bank; Image: Aibel