GMS: “Do You Really Know How OEMs Are Running Your Wind Farm?”

Do you really know how OEMs are running your wind farm? The fast-approaching expiry dates of many five-year equipment service warranties could spell uncertainties, opportunities and strategic decision-making for many offshore asset operators. Fortunately, there are attractive alternatives. 

Article by Green Marine Solutions

Time flies 
The shape of O&M services could soon change quite radically for many wind farm managers. Until now, most have been able to rely on the total all-round support that comes with a manufacturer’s five-year equipment warranty.
However, as wind farms mature, they are likely to find themselves under increasing pressure to look for other options.
One operator conceded recently that “I have no idea what my OEM is doing on my wind farm. It’s a secret!” He is one amongst many who feel that equipment manufacturers are effectively in control of their assets.
Recently, there is a lot of talk within the industry of partnering-up to meet the growing service gap. Interestingly, the operator who feels that he is in the dark over current servicing arrangements on his farm takes a different view.
“I would prefer to have a lot of different sub-contractors,” he says. “It would be hard work but I would have more control. At least I would have transparency.”
Renewing service contracts for an extra year while they start to weight up their options could offer a temporary fix for some operators. Meanwhile, Green Marine Solutions (GMS) is developing a number of initiatives that could help to take up the strain as more and more farms approach their fifth birthday.
Wear and tear 
During a decade of Round 1 wind farm construction that ended in August 2013 – and since the first Round 2 project was completed in April 2010, turbines have been installed offshore in ever-increasing numbers. Round 1 and 2 extensions will mean many more in the near future. Time passes quickly. Large numbers are already beginning to suffer from wear and tear in a tough environment.
Location makes the problem worse. Many Round 2 farms operate beyond the 8-13km exclusion zone set up to reduce visual impacts onshore and protect shallow sea bird feeding grounds.
As the first flush of youth fades, the result is growing financial and logistics problems for operators.
Quadruple dilemma 
Utilities face a four-fold problem. As equipment ages, efficiency falls off at an inverse rate to the need for additional technical support. More access is needed for mechanical services. Extra O&M support is required.
This leads to an increase in the movement of men and machinery working offshore, which in turn translates into more vessel time with additional planning and coordination needs.
Being able to guarantee consistently high productivity levels from boats, men and kit, commensurate with low costs, is the third strand of the problem. A fourth priority is to make maximum good use of all time and weather windows. Delays must be minimised. This includes stormy seasons with late dawns and early sunsets.
Another drawback of warrantees is that they often focus on service aspects rather than repair and maintenance. This can mask problems in younger equipment. Aging often brings hidden damage to the surface very quickly. The result is a rising O&M need. However, this is also an opportunity to re-think how inspections, repairs and maintenance can best be carried out.
Fresh perspectives 
Green Marine Solutions (GMS) has been looking at these problems for some time, with a sharp focus on cost and time-effective O&M solutions to support specialised mechanical services.
Our overall strategy has been to create a new level of O&M flexibility. This means that services no longer need to be tied to specific locations and calendars. Instead, they can be delivered as part of a rolling programme between adjacent wind farms and operators.
Day-to-day programming is determined by local priorities, local weather conditions, the seasons, long-term inspection, audit and compliance deadlines, plus changing local circumstances.
Cooperative maintenance 
In the near future, we will also be talking at greater length about the benefits of cooperative maintenance – a concept that will see partnership solutions being delivered routinely between neighbouring wind farms.
This integrated approach will also be invaluable as massive Round 3 farms begin to show their age. At that point, much longer journey times further out to sea, rougher weather and an evolving generation of innovative vessels designed to perform demanding service and maintenance tasks on towering turbines will call for even more cost-efficient O&M support
This will raise the costs and rewards of failure or success even higher.

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Source: Green Marine Solutions, September 16, 2014