The renewable energy industry is constantly transforming in line with new technological developments. Inspection services and site supervision activities are a typical example. For the first generation of renewable energy projects market demand was centred on quality assurance and vendor inspection services, as investments focused on the development of new plants. Nowadays, in parallel to greenfield developments, a number of large players own, manage and operate a significant portfolio of renewable energy plants spread across several locations or even countries.
Activities around mature assets, aimed at extending a plant’s life, improving performance and managing operations more efficiently, are thus becoming a fundamental aspect in the renewables business. This is particularly visible in wind farms, where there has been a trend towards higher towers in recent years. Such massive structures are not easy to inspect, since industrial climbers are expensive and there are risks associated with climbing at great heights.
In this fast-evolving scenario, new technologies are being considered, developed and implemented to properly respond to the changing market demand. For example, developments in new materials have helped to drive tremendous evolution in drone manufacturing over the last few years. Latest-generation drones are now able to carry more highperformance equipment, capable of capturing several kinds of information with higher accuracy and resolution.
RINA has developed its own digital platform in order to be able to exploit both unmanned applications and remotely operated services. RINA is now recognised by the aviation authorities as a qualified drone operator for critical campaigns, marking another step along the continuous path of development of this new service line.
Automated data collection mitigates safety issues and provides a large amount of data for easy processing and elaboration. Analysis is becoming more cost-effective, providing plant operators with real-time information on structural behaviours. In a demand-driven market, plant operators should be capable of predicting the future production capability of a renewable energy plant. Reliable weather forecasts allow a more precise prediction of the energy produced by a plant. Weather forecast data are associated with live data from the plants, metadata from individual turbines or solar systems and historical data to get the best possible prediction of production in the short term. This will all, in turn, have an immediate impact on energy price forecasts.
At RINA, we embrace the role of new technologies in the renewables sector and have identified digitalisation as a key pillar of our strategic plan. The development of our cloud-based platform, RINACube, is a fundamental step in enlarging and improving our offering in the renewables industry, opening the door to improved predictive asset management and new ways to exploit technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence.