Climbing the Digital Maturity Ladder. Data and Digitalisation in Offshore Renewables.

Author:van Heck, Peter


The emergence of big data and digitalisation as a transformer of the global economy has been one of the key industrial trends of recent years. In 2018, the Government's Industrial Strategy identified artificial intelligence and data as one of its four Grand Challenges, providing clear evidence of the technology's emerging importance and highlighting its transformational potential. For the offshore wind, wave and tidal energy sectors, the technology provides endless opportunities for innovation. From reducing turbine downtime through predictive maintenance, to improving health and safety through better weather and wave height forecasting, the industry is still scratching the surface of the potential benefits. This paper provides a high-level introduction to the digital revolution for professionals in the offshore wind, wave and tidal energy industries, and explores the key technologies being used and developed by the ORE Catapult's Data & Digitalisation team to fully exploit the industry's opportunity.


* Offshore wind, wave and tidal energy companies can benefit from the lessons learned by companies in more digitally mature industries, such as information technology, finance and oil and gas.

* Digital maturity can be expressed based on the type of analyses performed.

* Analyses are either descriptive, diagnostic, predictive or prescriptive.

* Four key technology opportunities have been identified for businesses in offshore renewables that can lead to greater efficiencies, better maintenance and lower costs: Business intelligence (structurally transform raw data into meaningful, useful information) Performance analysis (diving deep into the data to determine, for example, why turbines underperform) Machine learning (using comptuers to find dependencies that can help to predict specific events or situations) Process optimisation (optimisation of processes by analysing end-to-end data).

* ORE Catapult's specialist Data & Digitalisation team has been established to provide expertise, deliver innovation projects to help the industry adopt big data and digital techniques and deliver business improvements for companies in the sector.


As demonstrated by the significant reduction in Contracts for Difference (CfD) strike prices, offshore wind power is now established as a mainstream source of electricity generation that is cost-competitive with conventional methods. The UK also has a world-leading marine energy supply chain that has the potential to achieve significant cost reduction.

Despite the significant progress made, there are still many challenges to be overcome in the design, operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms.

The reduction in CfD strike prices also means that for owner/operators, the margin to make a profit becomes smaller: a trend that is expected to continue in the coming years. In order to keep offshore wind farms profitable, costs have to come down even further.

With operations and maintenance (O&M) representing around 25-30% of a wind farm's lifetime cost, the industry's focus has shifted towards smarter maintenance and task planning, and more efficient spare parts management and logistics, in an effort to reduce expenditure.

Finding out where and how improvements can be made is one of the challenges in which data will play an important role.

In response to this industry-wide issue, ORE Catapult has established a multi-disciplinary Data and Digitalisation team, comprising experts in computer science, data management, mechanical engineering and marine technology. This valuable blend of the data science and engineering domain is often lacking in offshore wind and this new team is focused on supporting the industry increase digital maturity.

Furthermore, the digitalisation lessons learned can then be applied directly to the tidal and wave energy industries, which are currently less mature but will face the same issues in the future.

The Data & Digitalisation Team

The Catapult's multi-disciplinary Data & Digitalisation team was established to address the main challenges in wind, wave and tidal energy data management, and to investigate and spearhead new ways of processing and handling data. Through the Crown Estate-commissioned Data Pilots...

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