Projects, Renewables, Solar

Maximising the lifespan of clean energy resources

Australian company Dynamic Ratings is helping the renewables industry extend the life of its assets through real-time monitoring and data.

Dynamic Ratings is an Australian owned and operated business that provides condition monitoring products and services to the renewables industry. Based in Melbourne, it has been in operation for 25 years, and has a team of industry experts internationally, with offices in the US and UK.

The company’s global reach helps it leverage experience and cutting-edge technology to produce solutions for the evolving needs of its customers. It is passionate about extending the life of renewable assets, and by utilising real-time data, it provides awareness of high-voltage electrical equipment, including transformers, circuit breakers and switchgear.

According to Dynamic Ratings, condition-based monitoring is a way for renewable assets to increase workplace safety; reduce unexpected failures; reduce unplanned outages; gain visibility of asset conditions; increase load and overall safety; and nurse aged or critical assets.

Wind and solar energy operations have long been confined to a short design life based on current technologies. In many cases, decisions about what to do with assets come down to the economics of long-term maintenance costs and equipment failure risks. Condition-based monitoring technologies help renewable generation providers offset risk, extend asset life and reduce the cost of re-powering a facility.

The amount of renewable assets connected to the grid has quadrupled during the past decade, and the renewable-energy sector is a lucrative space for investors. Dynamic Ratings aims to shift the status quo of operations and maintenance (O&M) providers, system designers and energy users towards a culture of maximising the lifespan of electrical assets.

With wind and solar energy operations working within the parameters of a 15-20-year design life based on turbine and panel technologies, power purchase agreements (PPA) structures and tax incentives, decisions to repower or dismantle renewable energy operations often come down to the economics of long-term maintenance costs and equipment failure risks.

By implementing condition-based maintenance technologies into renewable generation, energy providers can offset risk, extend the life of assets, and reduce the cost of repowering a facility.

Best practices for O&M indicate that investments in proactive maintenance are key. Continuous monitoring systems are an efficient means of collecting data to achieve maintenance goals and keep a power plant running as efficiently as possible.

Online monitoring systems not only provide critical data for assessing the long-term health of electrical equipment, they reduce downtime and lower maintenance costs. Online monitoring allows operators to deploy condition-based maintenance and direct resources to known issues rather than introducing potential problems by performing unnecessary work.

It also reduces unplanned outages and maintenance durations, keeping power and revenue flowing.

In solar applications, the cost of vegetation maintenance and keeping PV panels clean can account for as much as one-third of O&M costs. Wind facilities require more maintenance and repair activities, whereas the maintenance requirements for solar tend to lean towards site maintenance. This can lead to the idea that solar O&M costs are less than wind when viewed on a kWh basis, however their electrical maintenance costs are similar and provide equal benefits to extending the life of equipment.

Renewable applications are still the new kids on the block when it comes to the electrical world. In a system designed for stepping down power from transmission voltages to distribution levels, data is available to determine the useful life calculations for utility transformers. Absent of rich data sets, it becomes important to begin gathering this data early in the life of a renewable asset.

Asset owners have increasingly relied on independent service providers or self-performing maintenance work, however the cost of maintenance contracts has increased. As a result, investors are increasingly looking for wind and solar farms that have implemented computerised maintenance and asset management systems.

There is still some resistance to implement digital solutions as asset owners struggle to justify up-front capital costs. But this reluctance should be eased by considering the loss of production and increased maintenance costs associated with traditional methods. By allowing an electrical asset to run to failure, the risk of downtime is higher than maintenance guided by an online monitoring system.

When planned outages are taken, there are lower logistical costs since parts are not being expedited. Production losses can be mitigated by performing work when generation is at low points and overtime costs can be avoided.

In other industries, the business case for online monitoring can be made based on the issue of an unexpected loss of power impacting production and costing equipment downtime. Similar value propositions can be made for renewable assets.

Implementing condition-based maintenance powered by continuous monitoring systems is a cost-effective and proven solution to reduce O&M costs, extend asset life, improve planning cycles, and keep renewable-energy facilities online longer. All these elements will shift the culture of renewable-energy operations and maintenance practices towards longevity and sustainability, which is needed to address the gap in renewable generation demand and production capacity.

This article featured in the October edition of Ecogeneration.

For more information, visit Dynamic Ratings.

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