Clir hits 6 GW milestone

7 May 2020

Wind farm optimisation and monitoring firm reports significant growth across 2019, “onboarding a number of key global asset owners as investor focus moves to performance and revenue certainty”.

New figures from Clir Renewables, provider of a cloud-based AI platform that provides asset managers and owners with tools to maximise annual energy production, show that it surpassed a total of 6 GW of assets on the platform in 2019, a three-fold increase from the 2 GW at the end of 2018. “With a number of asset owners currently progressing their portfolios through Clir’s full onboarding process following successful trial periods, this growth shows no sign of slowing”, the company says.

Across the onshore and offshore wind industry, unexpected turbine downtime and underperformance can see energy production – and therefore revenue – significantly lower than forecast. This can have a substantial effect on the financing of wind projects, particularly as large investors move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. As such, improving turbine performance to maximise energy yield is vital to ensuring these investments remain profitable.

Clir uses artificial intelligence to analyse wind turbine data. The software identifies causes of underperformance, from blade icing to suboptimal derating plans, and provides asset owners and operators with strategies to improve performance and thereby increase annual energy production by up to 5%.

“As investors in renewables increasingly focus on asset performance and revenue certainty, we are able to use artificial intelligence to support wind farm owners in developing a complete understanding of their asset necessary to fix faults, maximise asset lifetime, and optimise for both performance and profit,” says Gareth Brown, CEO, Clir Renewables.

“Much of the information that owners need to fully optimise their assets is difficult to parse out from raw wind farm data. Typical analysis cannot provide an accurate understanding of whether energy is being lost due to wind resource or whether energy is lost as a result of asset underperformance. But by using AI, Clir can make those distinctions clear to owners, allowing them take informed actions to improve performance.

“2019 saw our biggest period of growth to date, hitting a new milestone of 6 GW, which we see is a clear indicator of the demand for wind investors to better understand their projects as the markets continue to evolve.”

Clir Renewables describes itself as a “software as a service” company “providing a solution developed by engineers for engineers.”

Clir’s proprietary algorithm cleans and analyses ingested data. providing actionable insights. Founded in early 2017, the company says clients typically see increases of up to 5% in annual energy production in the first year.

Looking to Latin America

Clir has recently recruited Didier Fra´vega, formerly of Senvion and GE, as the firm aims to expand across Latin America.

Wind power in Latin America has seen significant growth in the last decade, with over $18 billion invested in renewables last year alone and major new wind projects under development in Brazil, Me´xico, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, Clir notes. However, “a recent rollback in political support for renewables in the region has led project owners and investors to increase their focus on asset performance.”

More active approach needed, says Clir

Reactive operational strategies adopted by many wind asset owners are failing to provide increased performance and returns across wind portfolios. Combined, turbine misalignment, poor yaw control, and incorrect pitch settings can add up to the significant detriment of wind farm outputs. Yet too often, the analysis required to discover these anomalies is conducted
on an ad hoc basis or not completed at all. That at least is the view of Clir Renewables, provider of digital asset performance technology for the wind industry.

As the European wind energy industry has matured post-subsidy, wind asset owners have increasingly looked at how to elongate turbine lifetimes, increase project returns by enhancing performance, and better understand how their assets work.

Yet, despite this driver, there is still a disconnect between the actions that many asset managers are taking in order to try and optimise performance. Too often, turbine asset management relies on reactive strategies, which, while ensuring failed equipment is swiftly repaired, do not provide owners with increases in performance and hence, returns.

But, by adopting more active approaches that would include monitoring the effectiveness of existing turbine yaw and pitch settings, and subsequently adjusting, operators can see gains of up to 5% across a portfolio.

“In isolation, these adjustments may seem too small to make a fundamental difference to project performance,” says Gareth Brown, CEO, Clir Renewables. “But while each represents a ‘marginal gain’, collectively we tend to see overall performance improvements of up to 5%.”

“The wind industry’s relatively short maturation over the last 25 years or so, coupled with a move to merchant operations, means that we’re constantly learning how to extract better performance from our assets,” he continued.

“But too often, current operations and maintenance strategies are reactive, and fail to realise the potential for performance gains from wind energy equipment.

“As the industry evolves, this will clearly have to change, particularly as projects see the expiration of subsidy, push for lifetime extension, or come out of manufacturer warranty. We know that investors are starting to look more closely at their returns, which will materially affect their decisions on which projects to acquire or hold.”

Challenges offshore

Looking at the offshore wind sector, Clir argues that “until the offshore wind industry uses its data effectively to quantify the impact of offshore conditions over turbine lifetime, offshore wind will continue to face high operational costs, miss initially modelled power output capacity, and as a consequence suffer increased financing costs”, noting that ambitious European offshore wind capacity targets could be missed due to “a proliferation of operational unknowns.”

As recent financial results from major offshore wind operators have demonstrated, revenues may be pushed downwards by risks that, in Clir Renewables’ opinion, “were predictable.”

“Larger turbine designs and the stratified atmosphere found in offshore wind have pushed the demands facing this technology to greater heights than ever before,” commented Gareth Brown. “Clarifying the effect of the harsh offshore conditions on new turbines, however, still remains a challenge for the industry.”

“We know, for example, that capacity expectations have been developed optimistically, as you can’t take underperformance into account if you rely on old design assumptions which don’t cover the performance issues facing new offshore turbines, such as atmospheric stability that drives wake effects and the blockage effect. Focusing on these unknowns is key to informing financial decisions for future expansion of the industry.”

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