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New Open-Source Software Could Improve Operational Wind Industry Analyses

First-of-its-kind Tool Aims To Standardize Operational Analyses of Wind Power Plants Through Data Sharing and Collaboration

July 30, 2019

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released Open Operational Assessment (OpenOA), a new open-source software tool that provides a generalized framework for working with wind plant operational data. OpenOA aims to foster collaboration and methods sharing among wind industry professionals that contribute to more efficient deployment of resources and knowledge sharing.

Data Sharing Challenges and Investment Risks

Calculating accurate energy estimates at a wind power plant is difficult and creates uncertainty—an obstacle for risk-adverse investors. Investment risk can be reduced through improved benchmarking, collaboration, and data sharing—all functions that an effective operational analysis tool can provide. However, competition across the wind industry has made sharing data and methods uncommon—even though many of the techniques used by professionals to calculate estimates such as annual energy production are the same. OpenOA was developed to meet the need for a nonproprietary, reliable, and standardized tool for producing effective operational analyses at wind power plants to reduce investment risk.  

A Standardized Language Emerges

Initially developed to support NREL’s Wind Plan Performance and Prediction (WP3) Benchmark, the OpenOA codebase includes a built-in method for calculating annual energy production using operational data. The software facilitates the organizing, cleaning, and analyzing of a variety of wind plant operational data sources, including meteorological, supervisory control, and data acquisition data sources. The core of the module establishes a plant data class that houses wind plant data attributes and represents the first step toward a common industrywide data exchange format.

Based on their conversations with other wind industry stakeholders and their own observations about challenges facing the wind industry, NREL wind researchers Jason Fields and Mike Optis created OpenOA in collaboration with NREL researchers Jordan Perr-Sauer, Caleb Phillips, Lindy Williams, and Joseph Lee. The codebase is written to be compliant with International Electrotechnical Commission standards to help standardize the way operational analyses are performed on wind data. Making the codebase public should help spur the adoption of an industrywide standard and establish a common language for operational analyses among researchers and consultants.

Collaborative Benchmarking and Innovation

The OpenOA codebase, written in the common coding language Python, is available through GitHub. The codebase design is flexible and scalable to support a wide variety of operational data investigations, including wind plant performance verification, as well as availability and reliability deep dives of wind turbines at a power plant. This flexibility means that anyone can contribute their own version of the software to the OpenOA GitHub repository, which enables the natural growth and evolution of tools both inside and outside the OpenOA codebase.

“The switch to full public development is big,” Fields said. “This tool is meant to be collaborative and iterative. In that spirit, we invite other researchers to help in expanding, enhancing, and promoting this valuable tool.”

OpenOA will continue building upon itself as people contribute new versions of the code to the GitHub repository. While the core version of this software sets a critical foundation for standardized operational analyses, it is somewhat narrow in scope. Contributions from external users will expand the capability of OpenOA, enhancing toolkit functionality and developing new methods of data assessment.

Users contributing to the software will help inform the development of effective operational analyses from which a published standard—from the International Energy Commission or otherwise—may develop. This will help minimize some of the investment risk associated with wind power plants and ensure that wind continues to be an integral part of our energy future.