How Data Experts Underpin Innovation for CGN
“We have lots of experts in CGN Europe Energy: mechanical experts, wind experts, and data analysis experts that are using their own code alongside Greenbyte data.” Jean-Baptiste Breban, Operation Control Center team leader at CGN Europe Energy, is discussing how CGN’s broad expertise is driving its innovative approach to managing projects in its 2.4GW European wind and solar portfolio. He says this is crucial to CGN’s strategy, both in its European operations and at its Chinese parent company China General Nuclear.
“One of the strategies of CGN Europe Energy is to have experts. We have experts in different fields — environmental, blade, mechanical, electrical — and it is an important part of the strategy. We are doing this for the digitalization part too. We extensively use Greenbyte’s efficient API for our own analysis and for internal or external cross-working. We are working on a digitalization project with a university in Germany, and I don’t think that’s common.”
In this article, we find out how CGN Europe Energy has used Greenbyte to optimize performance of 900MW of its 2.4GW European assets, by helping to identify and fix problems with underperformance and curtailment. We also focus on innovations that are giving the company’s assets an edge over those of fellow companies in Europe.
CGN Europe Energy was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Paris. The firm is a subsidiary of China’s CGN Group, and has a portfolio that covers Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, as well as Senegal in Africa. To date, its total investment in Europe and Africa has exceeded €3 billion / $3.3 billion.
Breban says this growth has accelerated since he joined the company in 2018, when it only had 80MW of assets under direct operation. One of his first jobs at CGN Europe Energy was to launch procurement for a digital asset monitoring system and, in 2018, it went for Greenbyte (which is now owned by Power Factors).
He says that using Greenbyte has helped CGN Europe Energy to keep its supervision team lean, with just four people including Breban. These are the experts that monitor the performance of the company’s wind assets and then, if they see problems, direct their own technicians or those of turbine manufacturers to investigate and fix them. Greenbyte enables the team to see when turbines are running and helps them to quickly identify and address technical faults if the turbines are not running when they are meant to be — boosting energy production and revenue.
Greenbyte also shows the company when turbines are underperforming and when technical support is required. This supports CGN Europe Energy in its negotiations with turbine manufacturers, and the early warning it gains of potential issues gives it a chance to schedule maintenance or repairs at predicted times of low production. In addition, this demonstrates to turbine makers that CGN Europe Energy is serious about performance, which helps to build a strong long-term relationship.
One area where Greenbyte is empowering CGN Europe Energy to be proactive is in its use of automated alerts to identify reasons for curtailment. CGN Europe Energy is using over 100 of these curtailment alerts for the 900MW it has in Greenbyte, and these show curtailments caused by grid, technical and other environmental factors.
For example, Breban says the company has an alert to warn it about grid curtailment that is affecting its wind farms in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland: “It is very important for us because grid is a big issue in Ireland. Around 10% of our losses in Ireland are due to the grid, so it’s a big loss to identify,” he says. Breban explains that the grid is a big issue in Ireland due to high penetration of wind and the country’s low export capacity, which means that electricity oversupply has nowhere to go.
CGN Europe Energy has 237MW of wind capacity on the island of Ireland, and it is not due compensation when the grid is curtailed due to too much wind production.
Two other areas where CGN Europe Energy is pairing asset management expertise with Greenbyte alerts is around the management of environmental risks.
First, the company must comply with regulations related to the noise produced by its wind farms, and it has in-house acoustics experts so it can monitor the impact of its schemes: “Once the noise study performed, a tailored operation / curtailment plan is set-up,” says Breban. Greenbyte enables CGN Europe Energy to ensure that the correct operation scheme is in place and accurately evaluate the related losses.
Second, the company must comply with laws around harm to birds and bats, and so it has connected cameras to its turbines. When a risky bird trajectory is identified by this camera, deterrent noise systems can be activated depending on the distance and the bird’s wingspan. If the trajectory of the bird is not impacted by the deterrent system, then the risk of collision is higher, and the system sends the stop command to the machine taking in account the switch off duration of this model of turbine.
Finally, CGN Europe Energy is demonstrating its innovative approach by using the Greenbyte API to write its own programs to run within the Greenbyte platform.
“It is really useful to be able to have our own internal tools made by our specialists, but using the Greenbyte cloud. It’s very flexible for us and efficient for our analysis,” he explains. While some other operators are now starting to take a similar approach, CGN Europe Energy has been doing so for the last four years. CGN Europe Energy may not be the continent’s largest wind player, but it is one of the most innovative.
This decade, operators with this data expertise will have a competitive edge.