Enthusiasm was high and optimism even higher when the EdgeData team debuted BladeEdgeSM, our wind energy brand, at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition.
New Orleans provided the backdrop to the 2016 event, which was attended by 7,200 people and 600 exhibitors from all 50 states and 50 countries. This premier industry event convenes wind power developers, manufacturers, workers, executives, and other stakeholders with an interest in the US wind market.
AWEA WINDPOWER 2016 not only surpassed our expectations, it supplied critical insights about the future of wind.
Growing momentum fuels new opportunities
Today 40 U.S. states have wind power installed and can reliably supply power for 20 million American homes. Last year, wind installations surpassed all other energy technologies, including solar and natural gas, and wind power jobs grew 20 percent. Wind power now supports 88,000 jobs in the US.
The wind industry has a goal to reach 10 percent of US electricity by 2020, double the share of wind generated electricity compared to today. This will require at least eight gigawatts of new installations every year for the next five years.
While the State of Louisiana, ironically, has no wind power installed, the state has delivered the Block Island Project, the first offshore wind farm in the US. Currently under construction, the farm will spawn additional opportunity as offshore wind is a great fit for aerial inspections via UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and the associated software delivered by BladeEdgeSM.
Wind energy will continue to grow through the extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) that provides five years of certainty.
This is a significant opportunity for the industry. We must use this period of stability and renewed commitment for growth to advance wind on two fronts: innovation and maturation.
According to AWEA, the feedback from the industry is clear: cost cuts and innovation will drive the industry as it grows and matures.
On the innovation front, we must leverage new technologies, processes, data and operational techniques to increase efficiency, protect the workforce, and extend the usable life of wind infrastructure. BladeEdgeSM is committed to developing leading-edge technical and process solutions.
Meeting the challenges of maturation
Maturation provides a complementary set of challenges and opportunities.
The Operations / Maintenance and Reliability segment made up nearly one-fourth (22%) of the attendees at AWEA WINDPOWER 2016. It is expected that that number will continue to climb, as will the number of regional shows focused on that segment of the business.
As wind becomes a more dominant presence in the energy sector, the utilities and associated bodies of regulation will require the same level of security, operational maturity, and data-driven intelligence and practices that are standard in more traditional generation methods.
That’s where we come in. BladeEdgeSM enables a new level of maturity in monitoring and maintaining the condition of wind turbine blades in the field. The patent-pending BladeEdgeSM process of Capture-Compute-ConsumeSM will bring analytic data and business intelligence to the industry, translating to improved repair ROI, turbine life extension, worker safety, downtime and operational budget predictability.
The future of BladeEdgeSM
When it comes to wind, EdgeData had four founding objectives:
- Bring UAS technology to the wind industry
- Research and develop aerial inspection applications
- Prove its use-case value
- Commercialize an idea into a product and grow that into a company
AWEA WINDPOWER 2016 was our first wind conference. The response provided multiple points of validation that BladeEdgeSM, our process and the analytics software are firmly on the path to commercialization.
We attracted 43% more qualified leads than our objective. Also, we were quickly recognized as a thought leader, with genuine interest from each of our major market segments, including utility companies, wind farm owners, operations & maintenance, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), third-party repair and inspection companies, insurance underwriters, and Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS) software providers.
So what’s next for BladeEdgeSM?
Over the next two months, our team will focus on moving from our BladeEdgeSM demonstration release (1.0) into our commercial release (2.0). We’ll also develop USP (Unmanned Service Providers) capture partners to scale our flight operations and work with the various market segments to deliver the value they are expecting from BladeEdgeSM.
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