Evolving asset management strategies in a changing world by Neil Douglas

When speaking to our clients we are consistently reminded that one of the most common challenges faced by wind farm portfolio owners is that of asset diversity. Diversity can take many forms within a portfolio – asset age, wind farm size, technology, service provision and location, to name but a few.

As the wind industry has developed over the last three decades, we have seen wind farm portfolios grow in complexity and diversity. In the early years of commercial wind farm development, portfolios often had limited geographical spread. Turbine hardware was from a limited number of platforms, all of a similar age and generating capacity. Projects were typically managed by small in-house teams with hands-on knowledge of the projects. We now see many clients owning and operating internationally distributed portfolios, with substantial geographical diversity across the Americas, Europe and Asia. Large portfolios typically contain both old and new assets, as well as wind turbines from a wide stable of suppliers. Furthermore, sites within a single portfolio can range from small sub-20 MW wind farms to large offshore projects of 500 MW of greater.

Such diversity also leads to a range of approaches to site management, with many elements of the operational management being sub-contracted to local suppliers, which are often managed from afar.  As portfolios have often been assembled through a combination of greenfield development and acquisition,  it is common to see wide range of approaches to asset management within a portfolio, including differences in both operational systems and technology deployed.

The presence of diversity within portfolios is entirely understandable and often desirable in that it serves to balance the risk of over-exposure to any particular market, wind regime, technology or supplier. The complexity that portfolio diversity brings manifests itself when an owner seeks to implement change or consolidate operations at a portfolio level. There is a growing ambition amongst portfolio owners to have control and visibility of all of their assets via common IT systems, for example.

Market forces and portfolio growth are driving an awareness of the opportunity to optimise asset value through consolidation, streamlining and improvement, including changes in management approach, systems and technology upgrades. This is challenging to achieve at a portfolio level where substantial complexity exists. A rigorous approach is required in order to put decisions at site and portfolio level in a consistent financial framework, to ensure that all changes made are done in the long-term interest of project value.

We focus on helping owners implement change at both a portfolio and project level, from facilitating strategic decision making processes and identifying opportunities for improvement through to developing and managing implementation strategies. We always do this through the lens of project value, using tried and tested economic modelling approaches.

We start by applying a framework definition of state of the art and industry best practices in terms of processes, levels of performance, technology and team capability. We work with owners to systematically appraise where their own assets, operations and systems rank in terms of competence and functionality against this benchmark. This work allows owners to optimise their ongoing operations and also to prepare for significant milestones and events such as end of warranty, end of service contract, repowering and life-extension.

Crucially, we use our heritage in detailed techno-economic studies to express the impact of change in terms of the project economics, allowing informed investment decisions to be made.

We understand that operational teams have a demanding day job keeping on top of the ongoing challenges of operating a wind portfolio. We also appreciate that it can be a challenge for organizations to take a step back and form an independent view.

By applying tried and tested business analysis tools, allied with our deep technical knowledge and experience of wind farm operations, we take pride in working in partnership with clients to develop their asset management strategies.

2018-04-30T15:34:41+00:0029/04/2018|Views|