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Peter Drucker once said “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

wind farmKnowledge comes from experience and data that can also be expressed as information for teaching or learning and for reference purposes. In the digital world we have created a new phenomenon, namely ‘Big Data’. If you look these words up on the internet, you might find a definition that goes something like this “Data sets, typically consisting of billions or trillions of records that are so vast and complex that they require new and powerful computational resources to process”.

I’ve heard the phrase ‘Big Data’ for years, and grasp the concept but have rarely seen a practical application of Big Data in the wind industry. It’s been touted in wind energy for the past couple of years, along with the ‘industrial internet’, ‘innovative software solutions’, ‘plant optimization’ and ‘remote diagnostic services’, among others. The question that comes to mind is ‘so what?’

What is real, what is spin, what is the goal, and what value does it add to the turbine owner?

It’s really hard to answer these questions, but it does seem obvious that there must be value in data, the ability to collect it, analyze it, understand it and turn this knowledge into actions, products and solutions that improve turbine performance through better services, reliability retrofits, turbine upgrades and improved parts and components.

I recall being a student (although that memory is rapidly fading) and studying an area, as part of a dissertation, called Knowledge Management. Through some research, I found a publication by IBM and ordered it, excited I would have an edge over my fellow students with some insights from this powerful company. In the end I found out:

  1. It was more conceptual than real,
  2. It dealt with the challenges of turning implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
  3. It focused on people and the goal of retaining and sharing the knowledge and insights they gained throughout their careers.
  4. It recognized that there is huge value in individual knowledge that becomes exponentially greater when networked and linked, and
  5. It proposed the use of computers to capture, organize and share such knowledge.

What strikes me about this memory, is the strong parallels Knowledge Management has with Big Data …conceptual, challenging, knowledge based, about the application of that knowledge for improvements and very worthwhile!

In the end, the ability to create value from data depends entirely on what you collect, how well you collect it, the accuracy of that data, the insights you gain from analyzing that data and what you do with the information. Data is useless without the ability to convert it into valuable information and meaningful action.

At UpWind, we’ve spent the past three years looking at this challenge and working on solutions that can make us better and enable us to offer better solutions to our customers. Our focus is always on three simple things …more production, lower OPEX, longer asset life. Easy to say, much harder to deliver.

In the end, we settled in on UpWind Insight™ as our structure for collecting, aggregating, organizing, understanding and sharing knowledge (data) across our organization, making it available in the field and to our customers. We’re open with this data because we believe it makes us better, makes our customers more successful and ultimately drives long term asset performance improvements.

UpWind Insight

So, what does that really mean? I believe it comes down to five key things:

  1. We digitize our records and our information;
  2. We collect and organize this data in a SQL database;
  3. We convert the data into practical insight that is then applied to our services through discrete software modules and hardware platforms;
  4. We enable our employees to work more efficiently and effectively with better tools/information; and
  5. We leverage the insights gained to develop customer value with new solutions for repairs, modifications and upgrades, while also creating the option for a Reliability Centered Maintenance strategy.

In essence, it’s like putting an encyclopedia in the hands of the technician, giving an engineer an equivalent to CAD instead of pen and paper for advanced performance analysis, and placing a sure bet on a future event when you already know the outcome.

I don’t know that I would say we handle ‘Big Data’ or that I even care whether we collect millions, or billions, or trillions of records. What I do care about is whether we can effectively collect and share information that makes us better, gives us better insight and helps our customers.

Call it what you will, it is a worthy effort for the industry, and something we care about. For more production, lower OPEX, longer life …data matters …big or small …it matters because it relates to knowledge that can make us better.

For UpWind, it is about O&M Excellence© …powered by UpWind Insight™.

Peter Wells

Peter Wells

Peter Wells is a senior executive business leader with 27 years of global experience in renewable energy, energy technology, power projects, construction engineering and consulting. He was named Chief Executive Officer in September 2011, after serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. His demonstrated leadership, vision, and strategic thinking have been instrumental in fulfilling the overall corporate strategy of consistently providing customers a full-service offering at a lower cost per kilowatt hour.

Peter is focused on the continued growth and development of UpWind as the leading wind energy independent service provider (ISP) on utility scale wind power projects in North America. His commitment has been demonstrated through the development of an ISP that both sets the industry standard for O&M Excellence© but also continues to innovate how O&M providers can produce better results for wind farm owners.

Topics: operations and maintenance, big data, upwind insight