Wind Energy Test Equipment Market Grows - By Sivakumar Narayanaswamy
Wind Energy Test Equipment Market Grows By Sivakumar Narayanaswamy
With increasing awareness of the impact of climate change and depletion of natural resources, alternatives energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, as well as biofuels, have been getting significant attention over the last decade.
Various governments have been encouraging utilities to decrease the dependence on fossil fuels for electricity generation by promoting installation of other sources of electricity generation. Besides this, the rapid economic growth in emerging economies is also fuelling the increased demand for energy. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2010 World Energy Outlook has forecasted a 2.2 per cent growth per year in electricity demand between 2008 to 2035, indicating tremendous growth opportunity in the power generation industry. For example, in India, the actual per capita electricity consumption has more than doubled, i.e., from 140 kilowatt (kW) to 500 kW between 1980 and 2003 and is expected to grow to around 800 kW by 2012 according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimations. Also, the focus on clean energy has been necessitated by the depletion of fossil fuels with wind turbines becoming the fastest-growing energy source in the world.
Wind energy has witnessed rapid development in Europe, especially in Germany, Spain, and Denmark, with the availability of commercial utility-scale wind turbines in the 1980s leading to higher deployment levels here. This has evolved significantly through the 1990s and 2000s, notes Frost & Sullivan. In 2010, wind turbines have become more reliable and efficient, but demand regular maintenance as they are subjected to harsh ambient conditions. The adoption of newly-developed turbine technologies is likely to trigger fast-paced growth in the global wind industry.
One of the major challenges that wind turbine operators face is the high capital investment and higher operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. Less down time for maintenance and repair, ensures increased uptime, resulting in improved performance and quicker return on investment (ROI). In order to realize this, a complete set of tests need to be performed on components used in wind turbines, including blades, from the design stage continuing throughout its life cycle. This increases the costs of operation and has led to fewer investments in this sector. The impact in cases where the locations of wind energy plants are located offshore is profound, as these remote constructions will require higher levels of maintenance to ensure efficient operation. To ensure higher performance of the wind plants, testing by both component manufacturers and wind power operators becomes essential. Test equipment manufacturers catering for this market are challenged to provide cost-effective solutions to keep O&M costs low.
Another key challenge for vendors in the wind energy test equipment market is the lack of standards that define the testing procedures. Moreover, as the test procedures keep evolving, it poses a challenge to the vendors who are trying to keep pace with ever-changing consumer needs. Hence, the earlier freezing of the testing standards becomes crucial and is likely to benefit the stakeholders driving growth in their revenues.
The equipment used for wind turbines and other components can be categorised under two major categories – non-destructive testing (NDT) equipment and condition monitoring test equipment. NDT involves the examination of an object with technologies that do not affect the object's future usefulness. NDT includes methods that detect internal and external imperfections, and determine the structure and composition of materials, providing a balance between quality control and cost-effectiveness. This category caters to inspections on wind plant infrastructure carried out by visual, radiographic, and ultrasonic methods from the design phase until maintenance after installation. The condition monitoring tests involve the application of advanced technologies for determining equipment’s condition in order to predict potential failure. It includes technologies such as vibration measurement, infrared thermography and oil analysis.
Improved global economic conditions enabled robust growth for the wind market during 2010. The global wind energy test equipment market earned revenues of $60.7million in 2010 and Frost & Sullivan estimates this to reach $84.3million in 2015. The compound annual revenue growth rate for this market is estimated at 6.8 per cent. The non-destructive testing equipment contributed towards a higher share in the 2010 revenues and its share is expected to decline in 2015, owing to increasing deployments of condition-monitoring equipment. This trend can be attributed to the increased awareness and adoption of predictive maintenance.
Newer opportunities are unfolding for the NDT testing market in wind energy as the need for certification and verification of wind turbine components is increasing. Moreover, availability of sophisticated computational interpretation and analytic capabilities of measured data augurs well for the condition-monitoring solutions market.
The use of composite materials in the construction of blades and towers for greater efficiency and reliability necessitates better NDT techniques and tools. The vendors in this market have to tackle this issue by expediting R&D efforts to keep pace with the evolving component technologies. Lack of standardized methods for testing turbine blades and towers present many difficulties for NDT equipment vendor.
In 2009, test equipment end-users were involved in maximising performance to avoid expensive shutdown, when the macro-economic conditions were not favourable. Asset management in wind farms received a boost during the dire economic climate, with condition monitoring emerging as a primary tool to achieve improved performance from invested assets. Presently, as more wind farm operators are establishing wind farms at remote locations (offshore locations), remote monitoring has become more significant in wind energy condition monitoring. It enables continuous monitoring of an entire wind farm from a centralised location, enabling operators to optimise availability of turbines and related critical machinery.
In the US, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provided significant new federal funding for investments in renewable energy which enabled sustained demand in the manufacturing segment of wind industry for wind energy test equipment. Frost & Sullivan predicts that Europe will remain the major market for non-destructive and condition-monitoring equipment vendors with a robust installed base and healthier pipeline of Greenfield projects for the next few years. However, as wind turbine generator (WTG) manufacturers shift base to the BRIC region, the revenue contribution is likely to be skewed towards this region in the next few years.
With China and India, leading the installation of wind power plants in Asia Pacific region, demand for wind energy NDT as well as condition-monitoring equipment is expected to be higher in this region . Major manufacturers of wind turbine and blade components have set up manufacturing units here. Also, revenue from the African continent is expected to increase with increasing contributions from South Africa, Mauritania, Eritrea and Tunisia, which have been identified as promising countries for wind energy installations due to good wind conditions. Russia’s plan to install 5GW of wind power capacity by 2020 provides a great opportunity for the vendors in this market. Manufacturing plants are also being set up to cope with this demand.
Frost & Sullivan concludes that an increased demand for energy, and the focus on renewable energy as an alternative source for generating electrical energy, is expected to sustain growth in the wind energy industry. Moreover, the realisation of wind farm operators of the importance of preventive and predictive maintenance which allows them to remain competitive in their market, is expected to result in the growth of test equipment market revenues in the next decade promising better times for the test equipment vendors.
Sivakumar Narayanaswamy, Program Manager, Industrial Automation & Process Control – Europe – Frost & Sullivan