To be effective, asset management needs to be able to provide flexible, proactive technical and commercial support to wind farm asset owners and investors.
I’ve worked in the field (literally and metaphorically) of wind farm management for a long time. I know that an asset manager will always be pushed to find enough time to do all that needs to be done – they have to focus on the most important things. Based on my experience in designing and commissioning onshore turbines and managing the operation of onshore wind farms, I’ve developed seven steps for providing effective asset management:
1. Review and challenge performance frequently. Use a combination of daily, weekly and monthly reports from the O&M providers, regular communication with the site manager and technicians, and ad-hoc visits to site to maintain an accurate picture of the wind farm status. Of course, to do that, you’ve got to know that you’re reporting the right data and the data you’re reporting is right.
2. Make effective use of SCADA and condition monitoring data for making decisions by using in-house or third party software tools.
3. Understand the contributing factors to wind turbine performance in order to recommend cost- effective interventions for higher annual energy production.
4. Always review and challenge costs relating to unplanned service interventions, such as generator replacements. In doing so, think through how things will actually work on site rather than leaving things to chance.
5. For major works, such as a gearbox replacement, build a relationship with more than one service provider. This provides a level of flexibility so any unplanned service achieves the best balance between expenditure and lost revenue. At all times, high quality and safety standards must be maintained – which I know from experience is sometimes easier to say than do.
6. Optimise spare parts by holding long-lead parts close to the wind farm and ensuring high-cost, short lead-time parts are stocked by trusted suppliers, accessible in agreed timescales. Find alternative sources of spare parts, especially for older turbines, but always make sure that you’re not reducing quality as well as price.
7. Set realistic annual OPEX budgets and ensure spend is monitored effectively, acting early in the event of rising costs.
By following these steps, asset managers won’t go far wrong in maximising wind farms’ returns. And in maximising those returns, experience is much more useful than a big team.