Guide on Software Development for the Renewable Energy Sector
Nov 17, 2021
Guide on Software Development for the Renewable Energy Sector
2050 doesn’t look so distant anymore. The deadline for decarbonizing the global economy seems to creep towards us faster than it should. Fortunately, renewable energy innovations follow along and develop nearly as fast and, hopefully, will help us accomplish one of the biggest goals of this century.
In this article, we talk about renewable energy software that is being developed and deployed across different sectors (wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower and marine), go through opportunities and challenges from a software development perspective and mention a few next-gen solutions to look into for inspiration.
Why start building renewable energy software?
More and more countries, communities and individual companies set goals for minimizing their carbon footprint and increasing the share of renewables in their power supply. Many factors contribute to this trend.
New environmental standards and policies for decarbonization adopted globally and statewide.
Governmental incentives and support for clean energy initiatives and research.
Growing public and private investment into green energy technology, infrastructure, etc.
Emerging sectors (hydrogen, energy storage) and exploration of new clean energy sources (tidal, wave) for better coverage and resilience.
Rapidly declining cost of integrating renewable energy and storage technologies.
Rising availability of renewable energy software (SaaS, IaaS), proliferation of services, flexible collaboration/pricing models.
Large-scale cultivation of shift towards sustainability and carbon-neutrality.
Fast development of technology enablers — IoT, cloud, network solutions, LoRa and other M2M connectivity options, predictive analytics and machine intelligence.
These and other factors explain the records this market breaks every year. World renewable energy capacity more than doubled since 2011, according to Statista and IRENA’s report Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021.
Given the ambitious goals and huge milestones set for each decade up till 2050, demand for building a renewable energy software (smart grid solutions, monitoring and intelligent analytics, predictive maintenance, digital twins, etc.) goes up and creates many opportunities for forward-looking companies.
Here’s what we already have on the market today.
Renewable energy software development for different sectors
Hydropower and marine energy
This is one of the most diverse sectors that includes the top renewable source of energy — hydro power. Tidal, ocean thermal and wave energy are yet to be developed for wide-scale application and commercialization. However, these fields gain increasing interest globally.
Hydropower is a historical leader among renewables that accounts for more than half of the whole clean energy production today. It shows modest but steady development yearly, so as the portfolio of digital platforms and tools for this field.
Unlike hydropower, marine energy projects are less common though highly promising. Many tidal and wave innovations are at the R&D stage funded by the governments from the EU, UK, US and South Korea.
Widely-represented hydropower and next-gen ocean energy projects need very specific software for planning, operations monitoring and proactive asset management.
Digital Hydro Solutions by GE. Image credit: GE
Digital solutions for hydropower. The large infrastructure of hydropower plants requires real-time performance and machinery health monitoring, asset management, predictive maintenance for new and aging assets. All-in-one platform GE’s Hydro APM based on IIoT and data analytics technologies is a great example. This multi-feature solution provides hydropower operators with monitoring, analytics and modeling tools to help them maximize performance, cut costs and improve security on the plants.
Design, simulation and analytics tools. Ocean energy projects require tools and software for renewables engineering, environmental conditions monitoring and analytics, modeling and simulation. One of the leaders in this sector is DTOceanPlus working on an innovative ocean project design and modeling software. DNV has a large portfolio of renewable energy simulation software development, includingTidalBladed for turbine performance modeling. MIKE by DHI is one of the biggest providers of wave modeling software. All these systems use the combination of different technologies such as sensor-based monitoring and AI-powered analytics and shape a whole new niche in the renewable market.
Onshore and offshore wind
Wind is the second most widespread source of renewable energy in the world. China and the US are the leaders in producing electricity via onshore and offshore wind farms. Offshore wind projects have made a big leap in 2020 and gain traction with brands like Mitsubishi, Siemens and large utility and oil and gas companies in the front line.
Despite a minimalistic elegant look, wind turbines are incredibly complex machines. It takes a lot of work, resources and digital tools to enable operational efficiency, high production rate and security of these giants. Not to mention costly maintenance.
Thanks to IoT, cloud solutions and digital twin technology, it became considerably easier to manage wind turbines and wind energy infrastructure.
Digital wind farms. These are digital twins of real wind turbines and infrastructure. They live in the cloud and simulate the operation of their physical counterparts using the data coming from real physical assets, environment, weather, etc. This approach gives endless opportunities from real-time asset monitoring to predictive maintenance and testing different scenarios. GE’s Digital Wind Farm is an outstanding example of using digital twin tech.
Offshore wind park management. Offshore wind projects are harder to monitor, manage and maintain due to the complexity and cost of access, connectivity challenges and unpredictable environment. This increases the value of IoT-based systems for offshore asset monitoring and management such as the Offshore Manager platform.
Interested in making a renewable energy software solution and looking for a partner with rich tech skills and a relevant portfolio? Check our IoT development services and send your request to our expert team.
PV is arguably one of the most affordable and widespread options for renewable power generation across the globe.
This is already a huge sector in terms of software. You can find consumer mobile apps to control household-size rooftop panels and huge design and management systems for solar farms. There are, however, many opportunities for developing renewable energy software to scale and diversify this niche.
Solar design software. This is a very large category of platforms for designing optimal PV layout and infrastructure that will maximize energy output. It includes large SaaS solutions for engineers that allow to virtually build solar farms, map, predict production, etc. (e.g. SolarFarmer by DNV) and standalone drag-and-drop tools for PV design and installation (e.g. Aurora Solar).
PV portfolio management. These platforms provide a wide range of tools for monitoring and management of solar plants via one central system. They are usually multicomponent and customizable depending on business needs. Here you will find asset management and fleet monitoring tools (e.g. Greenbyte), data analytics, visualization and reporting, as well as tools for process automation and document management (e.g. 3megawatt).
Solar panel applications for consumers. There’s a wide variety of web and mobile applications for consumers who have PV installed in their homes or have access to solar energy sources in the district. Tools provided mostly by various energy management software companies include:
Collectively, geothermal and bioenergy make up a smaller share of the renewable energy portfolio. In 2020, Germany, the US, Brazil, China and India were the largest bioenergy producers; Turkey, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia led the geothermal energy sector, according to the IRENA report.
Despite the significantly smaller scale, there’s a range of opportunities for custom renewable energy software in this niche. Here are some example solutions that solve common problems in this sector.
Sensors tools for biomass measurement, assessment and production planning.
IoT water quality monitoring for cooling operations on geothermal plans.
Geological data visualization and machine analytics for geothermal planning and operations control.
3D modeling, image analysis and GIS tools for plant design.
IoT-based solutions for equipment condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.
Seequent is a company to look into to see how digital solutions are implemented in the geothermal sector. They provide a toolset for plant design, management, people collaboration and operations monitoring.
Image credit: Seequent
5 tips for developing renewable energy software
Here are a few things to remember when building software for renewable energy companies and projects.
Engage industry experts
Depending on the features and complexity of the project, it most likely will require engaging cross-field experts who can bring in industrial expertise at different stages of system design and implementation.
For example, solar farms design and modeling tools harness weather, GIS and environmental data and require adequate expertise. The development of monitoring tools for offshore wind and ocean energy machinery involves the measurement of the impact on the marine ecosystem. Software for geothermal operations is largely based on geoscience and should be tailored for geothermal experts’ needs.
Start with Discovery
Starting a new software development project with Discovery is an industry standard. Especially when we talk about building something as complex as an IIoT software for hydropower asset management or as innovative as a wave modeling platform.
Discovery project usually takes no longer than a month and allows you to prepare everything you need for the development: gather requirements, study the market, figure out possible limitations, select tech stack and integrations and set major milestones for project implementation. This is also the time to gather industry experts and make knowledge transfer.
The renewables market is bound to grow exponentially, so as new software, platforms and tools. One of the main goals of the Discovery project is to pick up the best you can get in the market and use it to optimize the cost and time of development.
It’s appealing to start an in-house renewable energy software development project and build a custom system from the ground up. However, this approach may prolong the time to market and inflate the budget. Majority of the software for renewable systems is multicomponent, data-heavy and rather complicated.
Fortunately, we now have the ingredients for creating a vibrant marketplace in this industry. Long-time players in this field provide SaaS tools, APIs and create collaborative environments to facilitate the development of new software for renewables. Laboratories such as NREL and Argonne work on and give access to open-source software, tools and data sets that can speed up the roll-out of new solutions.
This is another point for kicking off with the Discovery Project. At this stage, you study existing platforms, third-party integrations and technologies and see how you can leverage open-source projects and available software products for your benefit.
Consult with your provider of energy software development services to learn more about these opportunities.
Ready to start a renewable energy software development project? We have solid expertise in digital product design, scalable web development, data analytics and visualizations. Contact our team to see how we could help you augment your effort.
This is common advice for building software that is supposed to expand in time — process significantly more data, handle a growing number of assets or fleet of devices, widen geography, etc. Even though it may take 1-2 years to build a new system and then another year or more to build up functionality and optimize features based on usage data, it’s important to consider potential growth at the outset. It will affect many things, big and small.
For instance, it will determine the approach to system architecture and connectivity options. Expected data volume will have a major impact on dashboard design and UX as well as the choice of a cloud service provider.
Software for renewables is usually a part of a large infrastructure that may or may not include connected hardware (turbines, generators, converters, measurement stations, etc.), operational processes, people and a unique environment. Software is the linking means which connects all these components.
It is hardly possible to develop an efficient and useful system in isolation. On the contrary, infrastructure will have a major impact on the design and technology choices. For example, connectivity and data pipeline architecture depend on asset location (offshore, underwater, remote locations, high-heat zone, etc.), feature set depends on the requirements of operators and industry-specific standards, and so on.
Web development for renewable energy
Web applications make a significant part of renewable software portfolio across all major sectors. Solutions for modeling, monitoring, analytics and management are largely powered by modern web and cloud technologies. These technologies provide a wide range of opportunities to develop scalable, accessible, resilient and secure systems for renewable energy companies and organizations.
Design and develop responsive and highly interactive web platforms to track and manage resources, assets and operations.
Transform multisource heterogeneous data (sensor, equipment, production, environment, performance, etc.) into a customizable data pipeline that continuously provides valuable insights.
Create data analytics and visualization dashboards and collaborative tools to work with data assets and build data-driven growth strategies.
Connect all parts of physical infrastructure and develop web tools to control everything in one place.
Leverage versatile cloud services and effectively scale web assets as infrastructure and portfolio grow.
Add machine intelligence to enable predictive capabilities, trend analytics and forecasting.
If you are looking for a reliable tech provider of renewable energy software development solutions who could help you with the design and development of your web system, check our services or contact our team right away to get a no-obligation consultation on your project.
Custom renewable energy software with Digiteum
Digiteum design and engineering teams have hands-on experience in the clean energy sector and a vast portfolio with high-load web platforms, IoT and big data analytics projects.
We have been working on a large IoT platform for power consumption management, storage and solar integration for an award-winning US startup for over 2 years. Over the course of the project, our engineers and data scientists implemented a range of middleware, software, infrastructure and big data solutions and helped the client enter the market as an Innovator of the Year* and be featured among Clean Tech Entrepreneurs*.
The scope of this project included:
design and development of an energy consumption monitoring and management platform enabled by the Client's innovative hardware;
development of a distributed scalable infrastructure and ETL pipeline for sensory data management;
cross-platform web and mobile development of client applications;
development and configuration of advanced data analytics and visualization tools.
Who can help me with building a renewable energy software?
Renewable sector works with complex distributed systems that are often connected to physical infrastructure and rely on continuous data flow. In order to start a renewable software project, you will need to engage various specialists at different stages of design, development and deployment. Aside from a solid design and development team, you may also need to involve industry experts and on-site specialists.
What types of renewable energy software and solutions already exist in the market?
There's a large variety of solutions and software for renewables engineering, management and control across hydro, onshore/offshore wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal sectors. These systems help monitor and manage energy production, enable better safety on-site and allow to effectively respond to issues, automate maintenance and introduce a predictive approach to planning and production management.
What should I take into account when building a renewable energy software?
Depending on the complexity and purpose of your system, you should consider:
Physical infrastructure and how it would connect and communicate with your system (turbines, generators, converters, measurement stations, etc.).
How your system will integrate into existing operations and processes.
Environment and people who will work with the system.
They are technically excellent, have an agile process in place and are always looking for "win/win" opportunities. The team is incredibly honest, hard working and has been a source of new ideas and improvements.