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The economic viability of wind farms is a fascinating and complex subject for everyone involved in the renewable energy market. Nefino is committed to providing an initial, yet largely accurate validation of efficiency in just a few mouse clicks. Jan-Hendrik Piel, Chief Information Officer of Nefino, talks about how it works and the background to it.

What was the reason for setting up Nefino?

Repower, recycle or dismantle? Sooner or later this question will crop up for every wind turbine. In the coming years, thousands of wind turbines in Germany alone will cease to be covered by the subsidy scheme for renewable energy sources. By the end of 2020, this will be altogether more than 5,000 turbines. By the end of 2025, a further 8,000 wind turbines are to follow. In total, more than one in two wind turbines in the world will have to deal with the loss of national subsidies within the next decade. What happens to these wind turbines afterwards is still unclear. If they are shut down, the energy transition is in danger of coming to a halt. With our software, we help market players find alternatives to the dismantling procedure. This allows us to guarantee the expansion of wind energy capacity over the long term.

Why is Nefino important?

And regardless whether it concerns a new or an old wind turbine, or one that has been shifted to a more optimal use. Efficiency always depends on various spatial, technical and economic factors. Until now, the requisite and exhaustive analysis of efficiency levels has cost a lot of time and money. We offer an extremely useful and practice-based analysis that can be used to quickly and easily test any wind turbine. The high level of scalability of our software solution enables the analysis of numerous wind turbines in just a few seconds. This can be used by individual turbine owners as well as by the major market players. They can use the software to map out potential areas, investments, progression or repowering of complete wind farms.

What technology is Nefino based on?

The basis is the Nefino Location Intelligence (LI) software. It processes geo-, wind, turbine and financial data in an integrated system, made up of wind simulations, land and life cycle analyses, as well as economic feasibility studies. This makes it possible, for example, to use geodata to calculate the distance to buildings and roads down to the meter. This allows you to gauge at which location new construction or repowering will be approved. The software can also use wind simulations in order to show how much electricity can feasibly be generated at a specific location using a specific wind turbine. The expected gains and risks are examined in combination with life cycle analyses and economic feasibility studies.

Not only are owners able to evaluate their own wind turbines this way. Project planners and manufacturers can also use the geo-information system. For example, in their search for new potential areas. Banks and energy suppliers can discover new investment and financing opportunities this way.

What makes Nefino so different from the competition?

Much of this information and functionality is already available. So far, however, no one has applied any of that to an integrated system like we do. Instead of time-consuming and expensive advice, we offer an initial yet already very accurate assessment with just a few clicks of the mouse. As such, we offer our customers straightforward support in decision-making when it comes to pre-screening of new business opportunities. This means that expensive expert advice is only required for wind turbines and areas with considerable potential.

Will you still make money with economic efficiency monitoring for wind power plants? What was the biggest obstacle when it was set up?

At the start, we struggled to be in contact with the people who make the decisions in this market. On the one hand, it is the potential users, on the other hand, the people who oversee investments. We wanted to involve the potential users of our software in all the developments right from the outset. The collaboration with – a platform that brings many key players in this market together – and, of course, our shareholder Martin Westbomke, have all helped us with this. Martin has not just guided us through the various research projects that we have carried out as part of our work for the University of Hanover. He is also chairman of the Industrial Association for Repowering, Dismantling and Recycling of Wind Turbines (RDR Wind). In his role there, he has been able to make important contacts for us thanks to his network.

Was there a moment when Nefino almost didn’t get off the ground?

Two years ago, we had a critical moment at Husum Wind, one of the largest wind energy trade fairs in Europe. At that point we realized that we still had a lot of work to do. Actual sparring with prospective partners or customers from the industry only happened after that. We understood that there is a great demand for fast and pragmatic pre-screening.

What has been the most rewarding moment?

Two years later at the same trade fair. Of course, we already knew that our idea had a realistic chance. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have put all that work into the development and founding the company. Nevertheless, the success at this year’s fair has completely exceeded our expectations. We held discussions with almost every conceivable stakeholder in this market. The reactions were very positive. Before this, our problem was that we did have quite a concrete picture of our solution. But we were only able to present it to a limited extent. This year we were able to provide concrete figures in just a few clicks. Figures that are credible from the point of view of the experts. That convinced everyone.

What is the future for Nefino?

We are now able to analyse almost every wind farm in Germany. Yet in principle our model can be applied worldwide. In the intermediate term, we expect to be able to offer our system to a lot more countries. In the meantime, we want to earn money with software-related consultancy services. This means that project planners, operators or manufacturers of wind farms will be given a tool with which they can, for example, view their wind turbine inventory and conduct their own analyses. All of this can be automated if required. In the Software-as-a-Service model, they receive a customer-specific front-end from us and pay licence fees for updates and new features. And at long last they can say goodbye to their intricate Excel lists.