A wind farm project is meant to run at full capacity on day one, yet the reality is that many projects under produce while they ramp up. A typical wind farm produces approximately 2% less annual energy production (AEP) in their first year due to the turbines not being fully prepared for commercial operation.
It is common in the wind industry to assume a "ramp-up" period for a wind farm rather than expecting it to perform at peak availability in the first year. As stated in the white paper Validation of GH Energy and Uncertainty Predictions, "a further issue is that the first year or years of operation of a wind farm are often accompanied by a "ramp up” in availability before reaching mature operation." The below chart from the report shows a steep ramp up period in the first year.
This loss can be attributed to insufficient project and Pre-COD oversight. During Pre-COD, owners should seek out a service provider to work together with the owner to ensure that each Wind Turbine Generator (WTG) is delivered on par with the OEM contract. Making sure to audit the entire life cycle from receiving to commissioning is key to being successful. Typical results are a 2% increase in availability during year 1 and the associated increase in revenue based on a 200MW project at $50/MWh is $687,613 as indicated in the table below:
The value of Quality Assurance Services during the Pre-COD period is that the project will perform at a high level from Day 1. It is a mistake to assume a site will automatically run at 100% without validating the construction and commissioning process at each turbine. Unfortunately, even though you are paying for the asset, it does not guarantee a high quality installation. If you have never witnessed a site being built, you might not realize the amount of contractors on site at any given time...
- Concrete company
- Electrical company
- Crane company
- Transport company
- Primary construction team
- Other subcontractors
Each of these companies are performing a separate scope of work with specific deadlines to meet, the priority is not COD operations. They also bring employees with varying levels of experience. They may or may not have built a wind turbine before. And even if they have, has it been for the same OEM? This question even applies to the commissioners the OEM hired; are they new to this platform?
All of these factors affect the quality of the installation and every site has this same challenge. They only way to truly mitigate this risk is by having a dedicated Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) team experienced in commercial wind turbine operation ensuring every aspect of the installation is per the specification and there is an overlying focus on ensuring project optimization on Day 1.
Here are some examples of QA/QC services that can help ensure maximum production once the wind farm is operational:
Pre-COD & QA/QC Opportunities
- QA/QC inspections on construction activities and project status reporting
- Oversee pre-commercial period services and ensure the smooth transition to the operational period.
- Auditing and inspection of work performed by the construction contractors for compliance to the contract specifications and tests and audit report preparation
- Receipt of QC documentation for the collector system, wind farm substation, WTG foundations, WTG erection, and WTG mechanical completion and commissioning certificate
- Baseline inspection of the WTGs, scope based on a full WTG EOW Inspection Provide assistance and support Owner’s duties relative to O&M and contract negotiations.
- Conduct walk downs and generate punch lists for deficiencies, track correction of punch list items and support Owner to reconcile any discrepancies.
- Oversee the OEM’s programs, policies and procedures for O&M and EHS to ensure compliance.
- Assist Owner in reviewing the OEM’s and the BOP contractor’s turnover procedures, including tagging and lockout protocols.
- Implement an inventory control system.
- Set up a procurement system and purchase capital and expendable maintenance equipment and tools on behalf of Owner for use by the contractors to maintain the BOP.
- Review all OEM and BOP contractor data related to design, tools and spare parts lists, and operator training for the project. Provide comments and suggestions for improvement to Owner.
- Review machinery plans and drawings for the project with respect to their impact on O&M. Provide recommendations for improvement to Owner.
- Review project documents and O&M manual for requirements and impact on services provided by the OEM.
- Prepare initial O&M cost and operating performance budget.
- Develop project security measures and procedures.
At the end of the day, wind farm owners should not accept ramp periods of production. They should expect their assets to be performing at 100% full capacity from day one and the best way to assure that is by investing in a dedicated QA/QC services team during the pre-COD period, typically 3-9 months prior to commercial operation. The service provider should be able to deliver a baseline inspection and track the status of the entire project and all on site personnel to maximize production as soon as the wind farm comes on line, ultimately delivering extra revenue to the owner.