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Wind farm operators and owners could be exposed to higher inflationary pressures if they continue to use a tick-box approach to asset condition monitoring. This is the main finding in a report by ONYX Insight. The company is a leader in providing data analytics and engineering expertise for the global wind industry.
Over the past 10 years, condition monitoring has made the sector more profitable. It has delivered PS500 million in annual global revenue, reduced LCoE by 1.5% and virtually eliminated catastrophic failures. Wind continues to be a strong investment option despite rising costs throughout the value chain.
Unfortunately, existing monitoring strategies are not able to keep up with the sector’s rapid technological and market changes. Many owners and operators are left behind, unable to take advantage of the advances in analytics and sensing that promise great strides.
This report examines the reasons why long-term investments to ensure future-proof assets, and to proactively address emerging challenges are key to ensuring profitability and allowing wind to continue to play a critical role in a low carbon future. It identifies five critical project lifecycle events that owners and operators need to monitor in order to maximize ROI.
1. End of Warranty (EoW).
Operators are faced with difficult decisions regarding post-warranty service agreements. EoW inspections are typically conducted under OEM full scope service agreements that only cover turbine components. With tighter project margins and increasing confidence in turbine technology, asset owners are considering other options.
2. Operational stage
Although OEM service agreements may seem appealing due to the short-term cost savings, it could also prove to be a false economy. It is not clear whether OEMs and Operations & Maintenance service providers (O&M) are sufficiently incentivized in order to notify customers about impending failures in a timely fashion – as opposed to third-party providers, who must show value – and what impact this dynamic can have upon O&M costs and best practices.
3. Portfolio diversification and growth
Owners and operators who have in-house teams can face problems if their portfolios grow rapidly. ONYX Insight research shows that companies with portfolios exceeding 1.5GW will increase their capacity by as much as 60% by 2030. The same percentage of mixed solar and wind portfolios will be reached five years earlier, at 60% by 2025. In-house teams can become overwhelmed at this level, so hiring sprees to solve the problem will not be cost-effective.
4. Changes in O&M contracts or Mergers & acquisitions
Condition monitoring is essential to support transitions, de-risk and increase buyer confidence. It provides the equivalent of the full-service histories of the automotive industry.
5. Life extension and late stage
Operators and owners must have a good understanding of the condition and drivetrain of the towers, blades, and foundations. As the wind industry starts to look inwards and evaluate its carbon footprint, it is clear that condition monitoring is essential to ensure the sustainability of the parts being recycled. This can help save up to 90% on energy when compared to manufacturing new parts.
Evgenia Golisheva, VP Strategy and Operations, ONYX Insight, stated that condition monitoring is one the most powerful technologies an operator has for transforming asset profitability and removing uncertainty. It also improves confidence and control over budgeting decisions – from the end of warranty to repowering and extension. A successful monitoring strategy requires a long-term approach and continued investment in proven, comprehensive solutions that address not only the current challenges facing wind operators but also the future.