Managing Wind and Solar Farms With the Help of IoT

The energy sector is considered to be one of the most polluting industries. Given the climate targets that various companies and countries have set for themselves for the coming decades, energy suppliers must be on their toes. The industry has to change to adapt to stricter, more climate-friendly regulations and shifting customer expectations. With challenges related to a reliable energy supply, increased demand for energy, and energy transition, the utility industry is looking to digital technologies for help.

The Internet of Things is among the more promising technologies that can help the energy sector. IoT can help suppliers manage their existing infrastructures that generate energy based on coal, gas, or oil. The same also applies to energy produced with climate-friendly methods, such as solar and wind power. Energy suppliers can rely on sensor technology to collect data relevant to the functioning of solar panels and wind turbines. The data can then be analyzed for various purposes. More precisely, with the help of IoT, energy suppliers can obtain information about the energy output of individual panels and turbines and identify the potential causes of system failures. This information will help technicians identify errors and their location, thereby facilitating maintenance and repair processes.

At the same time, IoT enables energy suppliers to use analytical and predictive models. This has two major implications. First, the industry can move from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance. Here the benefits are clear as the evidence of an impending failure reduces the need for scheduled, preventive interventions. This helps reduce asset downtimes, keep overall productivity and efficiency at a higher level, and secure the energy supply.

Second, analytical tools can be employed to make more accurate production forecasts. As the IoT sensors not only track the assets, but also the environments in which they operate (e.g., humidity, temperature, wind speed, solar radiation, etc.), analytical tools are able to use that information to predict the level of energy output given certain weather conditions, helping suppliers to adjust the output of other utility sites accordingly. In the case of solar energy, there are several projects on the use of environmental data to build a solar tracker. Sensors track the sun’s position and send the data to a controller that rotates to achieve optimal alignment with the sun.

In sum, the Internet of Things proves to be a useful technology to further diversify the energy mix and increase the share of green energy in overall production. As explained above, IoT supports energy suppliers in handling assets related to solar and wind farms on a more granular and precise level. Therefore, maintenance costs are reduced and efficiencies are improved. In addition, energy suppliers find it easier to keep the grid stable since the information generated by IoT also covers the condition of the grid and provides insights that support decision-makers in making the best choices.

To find out what other technologies are used by energy suppliers, see our Expert View on how The Energy Sector Is Deploying Digital Technologies to Become Smart and More Sustainable.