Recognition of renewable energy pioneer in Argentina

On 3 July 2019, the Government of Argentina recognized Gabriela Rijter, Coordinator of National and International Cooperation at the Undersecretariat of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, for her public service by awarding her as a Woman Pioneer. Gabi was one of six women awarded the “Mujeres Pioneras” award, given to women who have distinguished themselves in the public sector. 

Gabi (pictured on the screen below) also serves as the Vice President of the Association of Women in Sustainable Energy of Argentina (AMES). AMES was formed by 11 women working in the energy sector, and aims to increase female participation in renewable energy and STEM fields, in order to foster economic and socioeconomic benefits.

In August 2018, the Ministry of Energy published a renewable energy sector employment report authored by Gabi, which can be found here. The report breaks down the type and distribution of jobs across various renewable energy technologies and geographic regimes, including jobs generated by projects under the RenovAr tender framework and the MATER corporate PPA framework

Our sincere congratulations to Gabi for the well-deserved recognition of her contributions to sustainable energy in Argentina!

Wind power costs have plummeted. How can they fall even further?

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New technology gets cheaper over time. We’ve seen it with TVs, laptops and even cell phones. While a new iPhone may run you several hundred dollars today, a Motorola DynaTac would have set you back nearly $4,000 in 1983. Wind energy is no exception to this rule—it may have been costly at one time, but today wind is the cheapest source of new electric generating capacity in many parts of the country. In fact, wind today costs 69 percent less than it did in 2009.

Even better, there’s plenty of room for wind’s costs to continue their sharp decline, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Wind’s previous cost declines were largely driven by technological advances that allow modern turbines to reach stronger, steadier winds. That lets them generate more electricity at a lower cost. Improvements in domestic manufacturing and economies of scale also made it cheaper to build new wind turbines. While there are still gains to be made in these areas, operations expenditures (OpEx) present a huge opportunity for new gains and were the focus of NREL and LBNL’s new study.

Why OpEx matters

Operational expenditures (OpEx) represent a large and growing share of a wind farm’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE). According to the LBNL/NREL study, OpEx accounts for between 25 and 35 percent of a project’s overall levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

And here’s where the cost savings come in– the labs estimate a 9 percent decline in OpEx results in roughly 10 percent of the future decrease in the LCOE, on average. As a result, reducing OpEx is essential to achieving lower LCOE and making wind even more cost competitive.

For example, operations and maintenance (O&M) expenditures are included in OpEx, and O&M is where some of the most exciting, high tech advances are being made, like drone deployment, the use of big data, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

What did LBNL/NREL study find?

The data shows a prominent downward trend in all-in levelized lifetime OpEx. All sources were consistent in reporting that for projects built in the late 1990s, the lifetime OpEx average was about $80/kilowatt (kW) per year. But the anticipated lifetime OpEx for more recent projects fell to low-mid $40s/kW per year. So just like a laptop today costs less than one from the late 90’s, OpEx costs for a wind farm built today are less than one built 20 years ago.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to this decline. As America’s wind fleet grows, emerging economies of scale reduce costs. Further cost savings are a result of matured technology, more reliable components, and the growing demand for “full wrap” contracts, O&M agreements that include full coverage for equipment maintenance and repair.

What can a wind farm do with OpEx savings?  

Lower OpEx costs are allowing wind farms to operate longer. Over time, turbines accumulate site-specific fatigue damage, the normal wear and tear associated with long-term equipment use. With better operations and management, site specific accumulated fatigue damage can in many cases become lower than design-certification fatigue damage, or wear and tear that comes from outdated design and technology. This makes the initial 20 year estimate of a turbine’s life obsolete. Improved technology, operations and management practice, and competitive pressures show that there’s an increased economic lifetime of 25 to 30 years.

The report’s authors concluded an OpEx-based learning rate of 9 percent over the 1998-2018 period, meaning that all-in OpEx in the U.S. has declined by 9 percent for each doubling of global wind capacity. This means that OpEx has also been a significant factor in reducing LCOE. The authors also find there’s ample room for continued OpEx reductions, which will further decrease wind’s already highly cost-competitive LCOE.

Enhancements on past mechanisms, greater economies of scale, additional research, and experience are expected to yield better component reliability, increased competition, and further standardization and application of technology for predictive maintenance. This is likely to drive OpEx lower. The authors report the learning-based OpEx estimates suggest continued OpEx reductions may contribute to 10 percent or more of the overall land-based wind LCOE reductions expected through 2030.

So an affordable energy source has room to grow even more affordable. That’s welcome news for everyone’s electric bills.

Women in Wind Q&A: Allison Luz Olivares (Mexico) 

 

The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Allison, one of this year’s participants, to chat about her pathway into renewable energy and the key issues facing women in the wind sector.

Allison lives in Mexico City, and has been working at Vestas since 2015. She began her career as a trainee in PMO construction for Latin America, and then moved to PMO Coordinator Latin America. Since 2018, she has been working as a project engineer on Construction Latin America North. She has worked for one of the biggest projects in Vestas Mexico (Reynosa III 123 WTGs) and Vicente Guerrero (33 WTGs). She is currently beginning the project of Guzmancito in Domenican Republic (16 WTGs).

How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?

I studied engineering in sustainable development, where I learned more about solar, wind and geothermal energy. I liked that a lot because a professor taught me everything very well. Also, at the time of studying (2015) my country México was working on a new energy law including renewable energy as a priority, with an achievement goal of 2030.

Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?

I worked as project engineer on the construction phase for wind farm projects. I worked in a project on Reynosa (one of the most dangerous cities on Mexico) in a project of 123 WTGs and Cd Victoria in a project of 33 WTGs. I learned the process of civil and electrical works, erection and commissioning of the wind turbines.

Internally one of the areas that we need to work on is the inclusion of women on the field; there is usually only one or two women, and only in administrative work. The sector needs to open space for women engineers and technicians for work directly on the turbines.

Externally, the sector needs to work a lot on the inclusion of the neighboring communities on the process of construction, explaining the impact of the project, the benefits for them. We also need to explain the benefits for the country and educate children about the sector.    

What sort of challenges  did you encounter in entering the sector? Can you tell us about an achievement wherein you overcame such a challenge?

One of the biggest challenges I first had was the cultural differences between people from all over the world. As Vestas is an international company, I am in contact with people with different cultural perspectives and learned to take into account their different ideas and how to communicate my ideas, so we can work with a positive atmosphere and solve problems in a better way.

Working as project engineer I have to communicate some activities to my partner’s team, discuss some themes with subcontractors and customers and organize activities. I noticed that some men are taken aback when I command these activities or when we discuss issues, because I am a woman. So I learned to be strong and win my place in the project, showing them that the options or the activities I present are the better options for the team. When they get a sense of my knowledge, they start trusting me.

If you had to pick one key issue facing women in the wind power sector, what would it be and why? 

Respect of women on-site, as well as respect of their ideas, is a big issue. In my country it is common that men can bother women with inappropriate comments or discussion about their appearance, and this behaviour tends to happen more when there are few women on-site. Also, some men are not as considerate of women’s input on technical topics because they think of us in administrative roles. These are the issues that I have faced in different moments of my work. 

Finally, what do you hope to achieve as a participant of Women in Wind Global Leadership Program? How will you contribute to the next generation of female leaders in the sector?

I want to learn about how women are growing the sector around the world, and what they do when faced with gender discrimination challenges in their professional activities. I want to learn some aptitude and knowledge in order to support women in my country and to achieve my professional goals. I want to do these things so that one day I can be a professional leader and help other women to achieve their professional goals, and teach both women and men better working practices, more positive working atmospheres and stronger teamwork.

Let us know your reactions or thoughts on Allison’s interview at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

Knowledge-Transfer Webinar: Engineering and technology innovation

 

Women in Wind held its first Knowledge-Transfer Webinar yesterday, on the topic of engineering and technological innovation. We were delighted to welcome Lucy Craig, Vice President and Director, Technology & Innovation, DNV, Angela Lock, General Manager, APAC, Tekmar Group (pictured below, center), and Catalina Sarivan, Product Manager, MHI Vestas (pictured above), to share their insights with our program Participants in a closed-door webinar.

Some of the insights include:

  • Lucy discussed the difference between the oft-used terms digitization (making processes digital, from wind farm and turbine design to monitoring and analysis), digitalization (business opportunities created by digitization, such as procuring customers through web portals) and digital transformation (changing business models through digitalization, such as online subscription services).
  • Angela provided an overview of the offshore wind growth story in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. The latter market will grow rapidly in the next 10 years, with pressure of a decreasing FIT scheme spurring a rapid construction period.
  • She also spoke about protection systems for sub-sea cables, a high-risk area for project capex as cable damage comprises around 80% of insurance claims in the sector.
  • Catalina closed off the presentations by demonstrating the evolution of turbines and other components from the mid-1990s to present-day. She also highlighted that her company’s largest rotor model was configured for worldwide application, demonstrating the deployment of offshore wind in emerging markets with extreme weather conditions.

Webinar participants asked thoughtful questions, such as how to use digital solutions to optimise older systems in markets where there was generally less data available. The question, “Will the turbines ever stop getting bigger?” sparked lively responses. And finally, each speaker shared her advice on becoming a thought leader in her respective field, noting the importance of focusing on a pathway (specialist? generalist?) and following your passion.