Dec 30, 2020

Mastering the digital transformation network

Wind
Renewables
DigitalTransformation
Gaurav Gupta
4 min
Wind energy’s impact on global sustainability hinges on holistic innovation, writes Gaurav Gupta, Chief Business Officer, L&T Technology Services
Wind energy’s impact on global sustainability hinges on holistic innovation, writes Gaurav Gupta, Chief Business Officer, L&T Technology Services...

We are living through a phase of continuous change – although the transition to renewable energy has begun, its potential and evolution coincides with digitalisation.

Wind is a mature power source, driving innovation. Global sustainability initiatives, like the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are pushing the boundaries for exploration of diversification and elevation of power supplies, leading to drastic transformation in the production, monitoring and delivery of wind energy.

Production equipment costs and power distribution, as well as the rise of techniques like modularisation, help to measure progress in the wind space. The ability to remotely monitor, identify, track and fix equipment demonstrates the link between technology and clean energy.

With maturity in how digital development is merged with sustainability initiatives, optimisation is the crucial next step to achieving universal access to energy. However, digital transformation is still critical to plug numerous gaps.

Critical challenges

For wind to become a viable energy source, the sector must learn from industries that have already harnessed digital innovation, such as automotive and aerospace. To match this progress, the wind sector needs to digitally optimise four critical areas:

  • Design
  • Testing
  • Manufacturing 
  • and after-market service

All could potentially become more cost and time-efficient, and will impact how effectively a wind power ecosystem is developed, maintained, managed and measured in terms of satisfaction.

Reducing the time taken for physical equipment innovations to reach the market will help in overcoming design challenges. This is compounded by additional hurdles regarding quality, economical manufacture and improved maintainability of components or products. 

Digitising testing shortens the trial cycle across entire lifecycles. Manufacturing challenges revolve around required economies of scale, impacting often dispersed supply chains. Delivering quality and reliable products determines whether wind power initiatives are successful.

Finally, considering that implemented projects will reflect the new norm in energy generation, after-sales services are vital and as significant as fulfilling power output demand. 

The wind sector is currently at a crossroad. It is mature, but demand is high – not just in terms of volume, but quality. These four critical factors will dictate how wind’s potential can be converted into a truly accessible source for the future.  

Transformation is a network

The solutions aren’t simple, and cannot be addressed in isolation. An interconnected network of solutions that work together is a necessity to achieving innovation.

Ushering change relies on technological approaches such as modularity, the use of digital twins and the adoption of digital product lifecycle management (PLM). A single digital thread, which is one common data source, improves decision making, the flow of information and informs product developments through conjoined quality management systems. All four intertwine with three pillars that create efficiency: modularisation, digitalisation and hybridisation. These help organisations speed up development and reduce costs. 

Modularisation of product structures offers customers with choice and enables economies of scale across the product lifecycle. Common components for varying turbine designs are utilised, allowing equipment to respond faster to innovations. The repetition effect reduces unit costs and increases quality through reusing sub-solutions across different products to maintain consistent quality. 

Digitalisation also helps to cut costs by addressing the connection of all value chain elements to streamline process and accelerate time-to-market. Design and manufacturing are connected, simplifying the process and improving both efficiencies and customer experiences. 

The right purchasing model also helps organisations save time and resources - such as switching from CapEx to OpEx. Rather than lavishly spending on maintaining physical components, investing in services that can be scaled up or down as necessity allows greater flexibility.

Updating the industry’s approach to innovation requires a complex network of continuous improvement. The connection between design, testing, manufacturing and after-market service can be concurrent or sequential.

Optimising AI and analytics through a PLM solution to create a digital twin, for testing purposes, ensures the concept and design phases receive continuous feedback and analysis. A single point of data and a digital thread, then, allows decision making to be more accurate, so the digital twin can be leveraged as more than just a lifecycle stage. 

The tenets of success

In essence, the wind energy sector cannot move forward with only periodic innovations. Transformation should be an all-encompassing transition in accordance with processes that will stand the test of time, albeit at a much faster speed.

This transformation is goal-oriented with a mature platform. Modularity, digitalisation and hybridisation will be the foundation of industry development over the next decade. They dovetail with the innovation accelerators aimed at creating digital threads.

Wind power’s viability as the optimum portal to achieve universal energy access hinges upon mastering the network of digital transformation. 

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Jun 22, 2021

Next Energy Technologies delivers PV window to Paris partner

Windows
SolarPV
construction
Paris
Dominic Ellis
4 min
Next Energy Technologies has delivered its energy-generating prototype window wall to Bouygues Construction in Paris

Next Energy Technologies, makers of a proprietary transparent PV coating that transforms commercial windows into energy producing solar panels, has delivered its PV Prototype Window Wall to Bouygues Construction in Paris.

Bouygues is a leading construction firm that specialises in complex commercial projects and the deal comes weeks after Next announced its $13.4 Million Series C round of funding (click here).

The PV Prototype Window Wall was delivered by NEXT in collaboration with its partners, Walters & Wolf, a leading commercial curtainwall manufacturer and glazing subcontractor headquartered in Fremont, California, and commercial glass fabricator, Glassfab Tempering  Services/Solarfab in Tracy, California. 

“NEXT’s technology is both unique and promising. We’re proud to support their collaboration with Bouygues Construction and will continue to work side by side with them in bringing their product to market,” said Nick Kocelj, President of Walters & Wolf.  

“We support NEXT Energy in their focused effort in providing a unique and innovative product to  the architectural market. When presented the opportunity to participate in this project, we were  eager to assist in any way possible”, said Brian Frea, President of Glassfab Tempering Services/ Solarfab. 

NEXT’s proprietary transparent PV coating transforms commercial windows into  energy-producing solar panels by converting unwanted infrared and UV light into electricity. This fully integrated system can help enable buildings to power themselves with their windows which  retain their traditional transparency and performance. 

The prototype installation consists of 10 transparent PV windows that supply electricity to a battery that powers an interactive display as well as auxiliary charging outlets, for phones, tablets and other electronics.

The purpose of this prototype demonstration is to showcase the  power generation functionality, the exceptional transparency and aesthetics, and the seamless  integration of NEXT windows into a standard glazing system designed by Walters & Wolf to  carry the electronics, wiring and hardware that comprise the balance-of-system. This direct integration into traditional commercial window and framing systems effectively extracts costs  typically associated with packaging and installation of solar. 

Installed in a typical commercial high-rise office building, the first generation of Next windows would offset as much as 10-20% of its power needs, and over a 30-year timeframe, such a building would produce about 20 million kWh of clean power, saving an average of $170,000  annually on utility bills and reducing 14,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the equivalent of powering 1,700 homes for an entire year. In the coming years, Next windows will be commercially available for window sizes up to 5 ft. x 10 ft (1.5 x 3 meters).  

Supply Chain solution to the climate crisis 

Next’s PV coatings are applied to commercial windows during the window fabrication  process, integrating with existing manufacturers without disrupting established workflows and  supply chains. This capital-efficient business model reduces risks to customers, removes  barriers to adoption, and accelerates speed to market, all while adding a high-value product to  the market. This direct integration into traditional commercial window and framing systems  effectively extracts costs typically associated with packaging and installation of solar.

"We are excited to be one of the first global construction companies pioneering NEXT's revolutionary transparent solar panel windows. This innovation will allow Bouygues Construction to offer its clients a simple, sustainable, and profitable solution for buildings that are autonomous in the management of their energy," said Christian De Nacquard, R&D and Innovation Director, Bouygues Bâtiment International.

The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050, requiring a fundamental transformation of the construction and building sectors, and 100% of new commercial buildings in California will be designed to zero net energy (ZNE) standards by 2030. Globally, buildings generate an estimated 40% of annual GHG emissions.

“Addressing the climate crisis at the corporate level requires creative and cost-effective solutions. Commercial buildings are an excellent example of something that can be re-imagined and improved to reduce carbon emissions and overall impact,” said Daniel Emmett,
CEO of NEXT. 

“At a more personal level, we’re seeing employees returning to office buildings after more than a year of lockdown vocally prioritise healthy and sustainable work environments as a requirement of in-person work."

In a recent survey, 74% of employees said they would consider changing jobs if their company did not meet their requirements for a healthy and sustainable office environment, added Emmett.

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