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Wind Operations Dallas - Opening Day Key Takeaways on Wind Turbine Operations during COVID-19

Peter Doherty • Jul 21, 2020 • 3-min read
Tags: insights wind operations clean-energy assets supply-chain virtual conference COVID-19

Wind turbine asset owners, operators and key actors in the wind energy supply chain discussed their challenges and successes during COVID-19 at the opening day of Wind Operations Dallas, organized by Reuters Events.

Summarized below are the key takeaways from the event.

Big Picture

Aaron Barr, Principal wind energy consultant at Wood Mackenzie opened the virtual conference by describing key trends observed during 2020.

Observations during the major shutdowns of industries and cities undertaken to limit the spread of COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Power demand was down between 2% — 10% across all markets
  • Access to and availability of spare parts was impacted by COVID because supply is partly domestic and partly international
  • Greenfield developments suffered delays due to crane availability and technician mobility
  • Deferment of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) to save costs arose during COVID-19. This could result in a bigger cost driven by repair and replacement of key components later

The other significant trends surrounded the transition to clean energy during COVID-19. Key observations are as follows:

  • 10% growth year-on-year in new renewable developments in the US despite the aforementioned lower power demand
  • 2020 has been a record year for greenfield developments with 15GW secured for construction;
  • Forecasts for 2021 indicate the construction of approximately 14GW of wind energy assets
  • Cancellations of major gas pipelines has increased due to high costs and regulatory hurdles
  • Acceleration of coal plant retirements continue
  • Utlities are commitmented to purchasing more clean energy
  • Industrial off-takers seek Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) that utlize clean energy sources
  • Average wind O&M costs are flattening because of competitive pressure and reduction focus
  • Flexible service arrangements are being used to combat unexpected maintenance and repairs

Further, with the upcoming US presidential elections this November, green initiatives may be accelerated should Joe Biden win the election.

Increased Emphasis on Remote Inspection

With flight restrictions and shelter-in-place orders during COVID-19, owners and operators have relied on remote inspection. Besides, wind asset managers and owners are using predictive analytics and drone technology to carry out on-site inspections that technicians would normally do in-person. Additionally, LiDar is the emerging and exciting value-add technology to a deeper understanding of asset performance and reliability.

Uninterrupted Supply Chain is Critical to Minimize Cost Overruns

In the US, the transportation industry is a key component of the wind energy supply chain. However, impacts on component delivery times due to driver shortages, lack of driver availability, and permit requirements and checks for equipment crossing borders and states.

The main question posed was how do operators and asset owners de-risk this challenge.

Transportation is critical, John Gibson, VP Operations, Goldwind Global

Philip Totaro CEO, IntelStor shared insights on Operational Expenditures (OPEX) and a broad look at market conditions.

Asset owners targeting 30% OPEX cuts across personnel, admin, and spare parts, while original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) may seek cuts in excess of 30%.

However, the key objectives of asset owners and operators are performance, reliability, and careful planning for downtime and maintenance.

Conclusions

COVDID-19 has impacted wind energy in the US in numerous ways, however, operators and asset owners are prevailing in the face of uncertain supply chains and significantly lower power demands. Greenfield developments continue to grow in uncertain times.

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