Grid & system integration, operations & maintenance, next-generation technologies, the offshore balance of plant, and floating wind technology are five main pillars in wind power innovation.
1. Grid & System Integration
- There is a need to develop wind turbine technology and grid infrastructure due to wind power advancement as a mainstream power generation source.
- Research & Innovation in wind power should look to provide a clearer picture of how wind power plants and power systems interact and develop grids that are stronger and more capable of handling “higher amounts of variable renewable energy.”
- Outdated operating principles that govern transmission system operators are generally unfavorable to wind energy and are among the regulatory and market design issues needed to transform the power system.
- In the EU, key action areas in grid & system integration include “energy system flexibility solutions, strategic grid expansion planning & operation to include improved storage solutions, and hybrid systems development.”
- In the US, “NREL wind energy grid integration analysts are working with the U.S. Department of Energy, university researchers, independent system operators, and regional transmission organizations to provide system characterization data and models that empower electric power system operators to more efficiently manage the integration of the wind power grid system.”
- H2GO Power is a startup that uses hydrogen storage solutions to provide longer-duration energy storage for wind and solar power grid systems. Here is the link to their website.
- DEPsys’ GridEye solution aids grid and system integration by enabling power grid operators to feed large renewable energy quantities, such as wind and solar, into their grids from decentralized sources. The startup company raised €11.6 million ($13.6 million) in Series B funding in February 2019. Here is the link to their website.
2. Operations & Maintenance
- This pillar seeks to improve operations & maintenance (O&M) factors in the wind power industry, such as O&M methodologies and cost reduction.
- In the US, “the estimated O&M costs for a fixed-bottom offshore wind plant in the US (which ranges from $100 per kilowatt (kW) per year to $150/kW/year), could represent up to 30% of the total levelized cost of energy (LCOE).” As such, reducing O&M costs could amount to significant LCOE benefits.
- The O&M sector of wind power innovation is quite competitive for players in the industry. With increasing advancement in the digitization and automation in this sector, there is a need for new and robust cybersecurity measures.
- In the EU, key action areas for this pillar include smart wind farm operations to include “performance management through better data collection and analysis, as well as lifetime management to include awareness of the internal and external conditions of the environment.
- Environmental impacts of wind energy in Brazil include visual effects on the landscape, electromagnetic interference, wildlife impact, and “noise influence on local residents.” However, the visual impact is considered one of the most critical problems of wind power plants in the country.
- Halo Energy is an example of a wind power startup with solutions related to O&M. The energy technology company develops low-cost, small-scale wind turbines which achieve higher output at lower costs “by employing patented shroud technology designs.” Its solutions require low operating costs and have an easy installation process. Here is the link to their website
- Vayu Corps’ VayuAI solution allows users to improve wind power plant optimization and control using a web-based interface. “The software coordinates the movement of upwind and downwind wind turbines to ensure maximum efficiency using data aggregation, the internet of things (IoT), and machine learning techniques.” Here is the link to their website.
3. Next-Generation Technologies
- This pillar of the wind power industry focuses on scientific research and innovations to stimulate breakthroughs and address possible long-term applications.
- Next-generation technologies involve employing repowering strategies such as the development of new materials and material recycling solutions.
- Key action areas under this pillar include “data-driven design and operation methods, development and validation of high fidelity models and next-generation components, materials, towers, and support structures, as well as fundamental research into radical and/or disruptive innovations.” Another critical action area is material recycling.
- Kite Power Systems is a startup energy company that is working to generate energy using kites. Its CEO helped to develop the first-ever kite-driven power station solution in the world. Here is the link to their website.
- American Wind’s innovative cubic wind turbine solution, “The MicroCube,” promises to generate 1000x more energy than a solar panel of the same size. Here is the link to their website.
4. Offshore Balance of Plant
- Offshore balance of plant is the pillar of wind power innovation that involves “substructures, site access, offshore grid infrastructure, substations, export cables, assembly, and installation.”
- The wind power industry is projected to show a continued increase in turbine size, as it has done over the past decade. However, building these larger turbines and their components require manufacturers to analyze optimal supporting structures.
- Solutions being developed under this pillar in the US seek to “adapt turbine designs, plant designs, and infrastructure that may need to deviate from linear scaling assumptions to accommodate the larger turbine sizes.”
- Other solutions include reducing development risks, improving reliability, understanding failure modes, managing complete component validation test costs, and “addressing all aspects of the supply chain and domestic offshore wind infrastructure.”
- Key action areas in the EU include substructure design, site conditions, and system engineering — offshore grid design.
- Edison is an energy startup that specializes in developing technological solutions to increase the efficiency of wind turbines. Here is the link to their website.
- Power Bloxx provides an “intelligent swarm electrification solution that can build up mini-grids quickly. The modular and decentralized system is optimized by an algorithm and can be connected to any sources of energy and battery systems.” Here is the link to their website.
5. Floating Wind Technology
- The capital expenditure (CapEx) costs of floating wind technology can be reduced to $60 per MWh or long-term cost targets by 2030 by deploying “multiple innovations within a complete system design.”
- This pillar has significant economic potential, which can be reached using a sustainable and steady supply chain. Thus, the floating wind sector focuses on innovation concepts that provide industrialization and scalability opportunities needed to drive the market globally.
- Key action areas within this pillar include developing holistic floating wind turbine system designs, “developing a stable supply chain and sectoral synergies to increase floating design concepts’ profitability.”
- SeaTwirl develops “floating vertical-axis wind turbine” solutions for offshore installations. Here is the link to their website.
- Floating Wind Technology Company is a startup the develops solutions within this pillar to include “coupled aero-hydro-servo-elastic analyses, and design and verification of support structures and mooring systems, as well as innovations in floating substructures and anchors.” Here is the link to their website.
- Energias de Portugal, SA (EDP) and Clearway Energy Inc. are competitors of CPFL Energia. Provided below are brief descriptions and their engagement with 1-2 wind power startups.
Energias de Portugal, SA (EDP)
- EDP is a utility-based company that operates in Portugal. It supplies gas and generates, supplies, and distributes electricity in Spain and Portugal. However, the company uses subsidiaries to carry out similar operations in Brazil, including “wind power promotion, construction, and operations.”
- Other locations where EDP operates include France and Belgium.
- In 2019, the corporate venture capital (VC) of EDP Group, EDP Ventures Brasil, made its first investment in a Brazilian electricity startup, Delfos.
- Being the lead investor, EDP Ventures contributed to the R$ 1.5 million ($265,650.15) raised by Delfos to complete its artificial intelligence (AI), which would serve to predict failures in power plants.
- The Investment Manager at EDP Ventures, Rosario Cannata, stated that “artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance is a very innovative technology with which Delfos can help wind, hydroelectric and solar power plants become more efficient, increasing plant productivity and reducing costs through failure prediction and improved operational insights.”
Clearway Energy Inc.
- Clearway Energy is an energy infrastructure investor that focuses on renewable energy generation and distribution, with “modern, sustainable, and long-term contracted assets across North America.”
- Clearway Energy signed an agreement to acquire 100% of Rattlesnake Flat’s equity interests, including the 144 net MW wind facility, the Rattlesnake Wind Project.
- Through a subsidiary, Clearway Energy also invested in a new partnership with CEG, aiming to repower the 55 net MW wind facility, the Pinnacle Wind Project. Clearway Energy’s commitments to CEG include a running investment of $27 million until 2031.