Wind farms make up a significant portion of the renewable energy market, making it essential for their high-voltage transmission assets to perform 100% of the time. When it comes to quality assurance, inspection and transmission line maintenance, most owner-operators prioritize their generation units in order to maximize asset availability. However, these organizations often overlook the “balance of plant” infrastructure which is responsible for collecting and delivering that power being produced and delivering it to the grid.
Neglecting “Balance of Plant” Can Have a Major Impact On Wind Farm Profitably
Unfortunately, ignoring balance of plant inspection and maintenance can have a significant and potentially negative financial impact for asset owners. Many wind farms were built by developers who were incented to be as cost-effective as possible throughout the build. As a result, the high voltage transmission equipment for many operational farms was constructed using inferior or under designed materials, chosen for their affordability rather than their longevity.
By neglecting these poorly designed assets, owners increase the risk of unplanned, premature or catastrophic failures of the sites collection system or gen-tie line. Not prioritizing appropriate inspection services increases the overall operational risk for a wind farm, including:
Unplanned outages of a wind farm’s gen-tie line present a huge risk to the owner. Very often there is only one interconnect between the site and the nearest utility substation where power is essentially sold and delivered to the grid. Because there is no redundancy, one failure at any point along that system could bring the entire site offline and cost the owner greatly in lost revenue and in some cases penalties from the public utility commission for that region. This means that something as small as a loose cotter pin could potentially take down every single turbine using that channel to deliver power.
Costly “Reactive” Maintenance
Because these transmission assets weren't built to last, it is unlikely that a site could expect to operate for a full 20 years (the design life of a wind turbine and thus a wind farm) without experiencing balance of plant issues. Severe weather and old-fashioned wear and tear are at war with this equipment every day. The cost of inspection and subsequent repairs increases dramatically as small problems are allowed to grow into big problems. Owners should always try to diagnose issues early through regular inspection patrols and schedule repairs as needed during the next planned outage at a time when asset downtime is less costly to the organization. Owners also need to be aware of the specific risks associated with different asset types. Structural transmission line inspection services performed by under-experienced personnel will likely miss important findings and render the entire effort useless. If you are going to spend the time and effort performing inspections, get the most value out of them by ensuring the team is properly qualified.
Contact a Third-Party Subject Matter Expert
Renewable operators don’t always have the right expertise internally to deal with certain issues and failures. Leveraging a 3rdparty SME can offer the following:
Asset Specific Expertise
A specialized vendor has extensive expertise in inspecting, remediating and managing transmission assets for structural integrity and reliability. Whether the issue is related to fabrication defects, cracked welds or excessive corrosion, your chosen provider will have the right expertise in-house to diagnose potential problems and identify structural or electrical issues that could affect asset performance.
Additionally, third-party providers will have the tools and resources needed to leverage a diverse range of experience to keep overall costs and expenditures to a minimum.
Full Life Cycle Asset Management
In addition to inspection and remediation services, an experienced service provider with specific asset expertise can offer full life cycle asset management. This should involve a customized solution which is tailored to the unique needs of the owner. The program should also include a robust data management and analytics strategy that monitors asset health over time, optimizes an owner’s repair and replace spend, and ultimately lengthens the overall life cycle while reducing wind farm maintenance costs over the life of an asset.
Exo renewable energy and structural inspection services can help keep your wind farm operating at maximum capacity. Contact our team of us today to hear more.
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