Why You Can’t Lose Sight of Quality During Wind Farm Development
The renewable energy industry continues to scale rapidly, and it’s having a huge impact on the way wind farms across the country operate. The cost to build new wind and solar energy production sites is now lower than the cost of running existing coal power plants. As a result, renewable energy companies are able to offer more competitive pricing than ever before.
But, there is still pressure to develop and operate renewable assets at lower costs, and it is important to consider where those cost reductions should, and should not occur.
Leaner Isn’t Always Better
One risk that comes with a leaner approach to large-scale structural development projects is poorer design and installation quality. At Exo, we’ve seen this happen time and time again in the utility industry. Steel transmission towers are designed to last 50 years, but catastrophic failures can occur as early as 3-4 years into a structure’s life when it’s not properly designed and constructed.
For wind farm maintenance in particular, when adequate care and attention is not given to small details, the consequences can be dire. One compromised structure in a generation-tie line can result in an entire site, or multiple sites, coming offline for days and even weeks. The cost of lost revenue alone can eclipse $1M per day, depending on the site.
So, while lean development may shorten project timelines and increase efficiency, these benefits do not always outweigh the associated risks. That’s why it’s important to implement proper wind turbine inspection at the onset of a project that minimizes the possibility of structural failure.
Here are six questions wind farm developers should ask when planning to enhance and secure their wind farm quality to save significant time, energy, and money over the life of their farm.
- Do you have a robust specification to provide tower vendors and/or EPC contractors?
Clearly documented guidelines are critical for successful engineering, procurement, and construction of your wind power assets. If your contractors and vendors don’t have this information, they will certainly miss the mark.
- Does that specification address current welding, fabrication, and design best practices?
We see that historically accepted standards are no longer adequate to prevent certain structural deficiencies. Without updating these standards, you will end up with catastrophic events and wasted money on wind turbine repairs that could have been avoided from the conception of the asset.
- Do you have a go-to list of qualified vendors, or do you entrust your contractors with vetting them?
When standard warranties only last one year on a structural asset that will be operated for potentially 30 or more, a contractor’s strategic objectives may not always align with yours as the long-term operator. In this case, it is worth it to vet your own tower vendors.
- If you have a list of preferred vendors, did your qualification process include detailed audits of the factory floors?
Gathering audits of your potential vendors’ operations gives you insight into what you can expect from their quality of work. We recommend using an auditor with deep manufacturing experience specific to structural towers. This will allow you to catch issues before your assets are implemented onto the field.
- When circumstances don’t allow you to use your preferred vendors, do you have a plan in place to ensure you receive the same level of product quality?
There are times when you’ll have to employ vendors that are not your first choice, but if you establish protocols and standards to validate and verify their work product, you can hold them accountable to the level of quality you expect.
- What kind of end-of-warranty wind turbine inspection program do you have for the transmission line?
This kind of program ensures that you always know when your warranty is up and can schedule a professional NDT inspection or UAV inspection of the transmission line before the period ends. If you and your partners find needed wind turbine repairs, you can then redirect responsibility for warrantable issues to the fabricator, who must handle remediation at no cost to you.
Maintain a High-Quality Wind Farm with Exo
Exo has extensive experience working with renewable energy companies like yours to develop and maintain high-quality structures. With our Ex-Tend approach, we help you proactively manage your assets to increase their overall lifespan. Our professional inspectors can assess your renewable infrastructure before development and help you establish an asset management program to prevent failures over the long run.
Ready to Work With Us?
Our team would love to talk to you so that we can learn about your renewable energy goals and primary areas of concern. Contact us today, and we’ll help you take the first step in creating a comprehensive asset management program. Give us a call at 281-259-7000.