Repowering existing wind assets can be a challenge, particularly when you consider multibrand fleets. Yet the opportunity to save time and money, as well as realize environmental benefits, means even the most complex repowering project can be a worthy endeavor.
Here we talk with Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ sales and service operations in the U.S. and Canada, about ways to maximize the benefits of repowering multibrand fleets.
What are some of the biggest challenges in repowering fleetwide, particularly across multiple brands?
Technical feasibility diligence remains a big challenge when an owner looks at installing equipment from different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on multibrand sites. It’s one thing to repower your old technology with new technology from the same manufacturer, but it’s another level of complexity to provide technical solutions for multibrand equipment. For many of these aging fleets, the original turbine manufacturer may no longer be in business or active, so realizing the repower benefits requires a partner capable of applying their technical expertise and capabilities to develop multibrand solutions. And finally, that OEM must be willing to certify that multibrand solution.
On the education front, the ins and outs of tax qualification, repower economics and the environmental benefits of repowering beyond securing the production tax credit (PTC) extension are a lot to comprehend. It can feel even more challenging when considering those factors across a multibrand fleet.
What should companies look for in a vendor to mitigate some of these challenges?
First and foremost, the ideal solutions provider has to have a thorough understanding of wind technology and the ability to translate that expertise into technically feasible solutions across multiple platforms.
The right solutions provider will have experience in helping companies walk through the tax implications, repowering economics and environmental benefits.
Vestas has the world’s largest operating base, and we’re harnessing that data to fine-tune solutions across Vestas’ platforms, as well as multibrand equipment. We also bring a unique multibrand service expertise to our solutions. That means we understand the operating efficiencies and benefits gained by replacing older technology.
What are the advantages of repowering assets, no matter the brand, all at once?
The obvious advantage is the 10-year extension of the project’s PTCs.
With a fleetwide repowering effort, you are gaining the PTC extension benefits and also immediately realizing annual energy production gains of 8% to 15%. Those gains, realized through superior technology, larger rotors, nameplate increases and better availability, are significant.
In addition to production benefits, that new technology also includes service and operating savings. The new equipment is more reliable and less costly to service, and servicing a uniformly repowered fleet opens economies of scale that significantly drive down operating costs.
And finally, there are substantial benefits to the local community. With the extension of the project life comes sustained jobs, lower energy costs, sustained lease revenue and taxes, and other benefits that extend beyond the project performance itself.
How are companies using data to optimize repowering fleetwide?
Access to turbine operating data is critical to effectively evaluate park performance, wind resource, operating costs and other factors that impact a project’s availability and profitability. Equally, if not more importantly, is effectively using that data to model and predict optimized site layouts, best technical solutions and options, maintenance costs and more. At Vestas, we’re leveraging more than 35 years of insights gained from across our global operating base – the world’s largest – to develop site-specific repowering solutions across a variety of turbine brands.
Chris Brown is president for Vestas’ sales and service operations in the U.S. and Canada. Brown also serves on the executive committee as Group Senior Vice President for Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer and operations & maintenance service provider. Brown previously served as chairman for the American Wind Energy Association.
Brown, an energy industry leader with decades of experience running electric utility and independent power operations, joined Vestas in 2012.