Why centralizing and integrating operations is key to success

Growth in the renewable energy sector is happening at an accelerated pace. McKinsey predicts that by 2035, more than 50% of all global power generation will be coming from renewable sources. According to DNV's Energy Transition Outlook 2021, solar and wind will represent 69% of grid-connected power generation by 2050.

Portfolios consisting of assets with diverse technologies pose a challenge

Centralized asset management is becoming more and more important as independent power producers all over the world build ever-larger portfolios. These portfolios are often a mix of different types of renewable energy assets built on different kinds of technologies. Further, various storage solutions like electrical batteries, green hydrogen/ammonia, and hydropower reservoirs are becoming increasingly relevant.

This mix of technologies increases the complexity of a system and raises multiple questions regarding problems connected to the increased complexity in comparison to single-technology solutions. 

Geographic distribution of assets

Assets within the renewable energy sector tend to cover large geographical areas and/or are situated in remote locations. This geographical distribution of assets means that having personnel on-site is often not economically feasible. This makes it a necessity to have remote operations in order to ensure optimal plant utilization.

Ever-lasting integration projects

These complex portfolios lead to a need for tight integrations in order to avoid assets becoming silos that do not communicate with each other and with the organization.

Hence, integration of new assets and changes in the balance of the system can become costly and “ever-lasting” integration projects. Every time something is changed either in the managing system at the top of the enterprise, or in the asset, integration of systems has to be done. Also, whenever a new asset is to be integrated into the portfolio, this becomes yet another integration project.

Such “ever-lasting” integration projects tend to make the organization dependent on extensive investments that bring little or no value in themselves. 

The requirement of different skill sets pose a challenge to O&M

Different technologies require different skill sets to operate, and with expanding portfolios, the challenge grows. From a situation where an organization only had to focus on e.g. wind and solar; they will need to have expertise on a number of such technologies. Said experts have a need for systems that support integrated operations in order to maximize the performance across assets. Again, to achieve this, systems that can communicate seamlessly across the portfolio are a key success factor.

Leveraging the economics of scale

In order to secure a profitable business over a single asset´s lifetime (spanning several decades) and also across the whole enterprise portfolio, leveraging the economics of scale is necessary. 

Minimizing the cost of operation while maintaining plant and portfolio performance is key to winning new actions and increasing the bankability of assets.

Remote access of assets through SCADA- and Asset Management systems poses a possibility of such a streamlining of operations. 

Over time such a system saves the enterprise both time and money.

SCADA- and Asset Management Systems - elements to consider

There are several capabilities important to consider when operational support systems are selected. Such systems need to be asset-centric and information-based to be a direct source of structured information to the users.

Elements that are of the essence when choosing what SCADA- and asset management systems to use, solving the problems discussed in order to make the digitization of operations as low-cost and smooth as possible are:

Integrated operations

The system should be designed for integrated operations in such a way that the multidisciplinary teams needed to make the whole enterprise run smoothly, can co-work effectively. The cooperation should be possible across cultures, countries, and continents, and without having to be present on-site to evaluate the need for different actions.  

Standardizing data structures

A scalable system built on standardized information models, like the OPC UA, makes the cost marginal when scaling up the enterprise. Contextualization of data gives a uniform view of different assets, regardless of what technologies are present under the hood. 

Data-driven operations

The system should be an actual data-driven decision support system that sits centrally in the operations organization.  With a system that contextualizes data, there is less need for man-power driven data interpretation. This will enable one point of true data from all the underlying systems, with the possibility of making reports from all levels of the system, containing highly trustable data both real-time and historically. 

Instead of operators having to manually collect and interpret data to decide on the appropriate action, the system should present high-level actual decision-support information.

Centralization, integration, and standardization is the solution

SCADA and Asset Management systems should be built as standardized, contextualized information models that give you a uniform view of your assets. Having such a system ensures, among other things, more effective roll-outs portfolio-wide when deploying new functions, the possibility of more agile operations, on-demand maintenance, and also makes reporting to stakeholders and personnel easy.  

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