Power Plant Costs for Operation & Maintenance- US

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Gas Power Plant Operations & Maintenance Trends

  • The US Energy Information Administration predicts that most of the electricity generating capacity additions installed in the US through 2050 will be natural gas combined cycle and solar. Onshore wind will most likely only be competitive in a few regions before the tax credits are phased out, but might become more competitive later in the forecast period as the cost for installing the turbines continues to decline.
  • The transition from coal to natural gas and renewables has led to a significant drop in carbon emissions over the last decade.
  • In 2018, natural gas overtook coal as the leading source of electricity, making up 27.4% of the mix, with coal at 25.4%. Hydro provided 13.8%, wind 7.0%, and solar 3.0%.

O&M Costs Increasing

  • Operations and Maintenance costs represent insurance, taxes, land lease payments, replacement costs, and maintenance over the lifetime of the plant. Overall, Gas CT plants are less efficient than Gas CCD power plants and tend to run as intermediate plants as needed.
  • In the last two decades O&M costs have increased by 74%. Costs, with the exclusion of fuel, rose to an average of $10.80 /megawatt-hour (MWh), up from $6.21, for investor owned power plants.
  • Overall costs in the last two decades have risen by 113%.
  • Maintenance costs are consistently higher than operational costs. Since 2005, maintenance costs have been ever-increasing. From 1993 to 2017 maintenance costs rose from $2.39 to $5.01 per MWh, making overall O&M costs rising from $4.74 to $10.12/MWh as an average for all power plants.
  • According to the US Energy Information Administration, in a reference case they completed, the natural gas CC value to cost ratio was close to 1.0, indicating that the value just covers the costs to produce the energy.
  • "Combined cycle plants, defined as having at least one combustion turbine and one steam turbine, operate at much higher efficiency levels than the other types. While this lowers operating costs over the long-term, capital costs for construction are also higher. Combustion turbine natural gas power plants are less efficient than combined cycle, which results in higher operational costs, but are also less expensive to build."
  • The state of California provided a detailed breakdown of their O&M costs, which may be viewed here.

Production

  • The growth of renewable energy, which was up 8.3% in 2017 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, has affected production. This has led to combined cycle plants operating less frequently.
  • "Lower natural gas prices and reduced capital costs of new natural gas-fired combined-cycle (CC) generating units shift fossil fuel electric generation use during the next decade. Beginning in 2020—the first year of availability—new, advanced CC natural gas-fired units have the highest projected capacity factors of all technologies, averaging 76% between 2025 and 2050. With their lower efficiency, conventional CC units decline in utilization, from 56% in 2020 to 18% by 2050, still remaining higher than combustion turbines but much lower than their designed operating rates."
  • Even though they are generally operating less frequently, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) reports that natural gas grew the most when it came to power generation and was up by 156.4 TWh to 2,298 TWh in 2018, a 5.6% increase. Natural gas is now the leading source of electricity in the OECD.
  • As the shares of gas generated electricity increase, the shares of coal and nuclear electricity decrease. By 2050, it is predicted that gas will make up 39% (up from 34%) of the energy mix, and renewables will increase from 18% to 31%.

Workforce- Education & Training

  • Labor is becoming a major cost for combined cycle plants.
  • New technology is abound and the workforce needs an ever-changing skill set. Ongoing education and training is vital to this process. It is recommended when interviewing candidates that one should make sure they are willing to develop new skills as needed.
  • To combat the rising costs, plants are cross-training their workforce on multiple tasks, making them more versatile.
  • A well-educated staff enables the plant to run at a lower cost, as it is more efficient. It is recommended that training should be viewed as a university system, by providing a base education and building upon it with "graduate and doctorate" courses that expand the workforce's skills.
  • Training programs should not just be in classrooms, but in state-of-the-art labs that can replicate the situations that workers face.
  • Many municipalities have formed Joint Action Agencies to share workers between companies, enabling them to benefit from the expertise they do not currently have.
  • 3D visualization coupled with VR is set to revolutionize operations and maintenance training. VR can offer training and learning that is safe and controlled. Several startups are working on offering solutions in this area. This training will let workers learn from their mistakes before they actually make them in the field.

Workforce- Automation

  • Automation is a direct result of the rise in O&M costs. Some technologies include robots, drones or AI software, chatbots, robotic process automation, and blockchain. This will assist with maintenance and be a key factor in predicting outages and grid management.
  • With combined cycle plants firing less frequently, sometimes for only a few hours a day, maintenance is stretched out over a longer period, but the labor force is still getting paid. Automation helps reduce some costs associated with labor.
  • Sensors are being installed on rotating equipment like generators and turbines to automate these processes. The trend with declining prices in sensors is assisting this effort, and making it a more economical option.
  • Automation also opens up the option for remote work. With more automation, control room operators can manage multiple plants remotely, and off site if needed.
  • "While onsite field operators will still be needed for routine maintenance or plant emergencies, these tasks can be combined to require fewer people, including control-room operators. With tablet computers, they can perform key functions while conducting field work, reducing the headcount at the plant."

3D Visualization

  • Plants have been turning to 3D visualization to streamline operations. 3D visualization assists in the construction, installation, and maintenance of a power plant.
  • Power stations are becoming more modular in concept, with large modules being produced onsite. 3D models assist by letting the developers see potential issues during the construction and installation process. This way issues can be ironed ideally out before the installation begins. These models further assist when it comes time to upgrade and in the constant maintenance.
  • Andreas Locher, the global head of commissioning at GE, explains in an interview with Transform: "When we have new developments, new products, or new designs, the services team is always a part of the constructability review meetings. They verify that their needs are considered in the right manner and we look at 3D models as part of that."
  • The models can also ensure a longer life cycles of the equipment, assist in the emissions regulation adherence, and in changing grid code requirements.
  • When upgrades are needed, 3D models let the plant designers simulate trends and issues, and deal with them during development, instead of when the upgrade is already installed. This technology can help assure the right options are used for the need at hand. These needs will likely include renewable balancing, ancillary services provisioning, and even reserve capacity from onsite energy storage technologies.
  • 3D visualization has also allowed for data coupling with 3D powerplants. In this scenario, all the data and documentation about any component is introduced into the 3D software, letting operators update and modify data as maintenance or replacement of components occurs. This lets the plant have a real time picture of the condition of all elements and components in the plant.
  • Shell has used 3D printers to prototype their Stones Oil and Gas station in the Gulf of Mexico. They used the printer to produce a scaled down plastic version of every component. This let them understand what they needed to do to improve the components before the actual build. This saved them $40 million dollars by being able to flag design flaws early on. It also let them show the government precisely what the station consisted of and sped up their approval process.
  • Research Strategy

  • To be considered a trend, the topics must have been included multiple times in the research process and their needed to be evidence that this trend would continue into the foreseeable future. Reputable sources such as the US Energy Administration and the OECD were used to begin the research, then supplemental sources were found to support the trends.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Hyrdro Power Plant Operations & Maintenance Trends

Hydropower is continuing to grow in popularity due to the increased desire for renewable resources. One of the issues plaguing the power source is the age of the fleet and the need for upgrades, which ultimately have made O&M costs rise steeply. Digitization, a needed upgrade, can ultimately lower O&M costs over the life of the plant once they are invested in.
  • Hydro power provided 13.8% of the world's energy needs in 2018.
  • The ability of hydropower to quickly adjust output makes it a key complement to natural gas power plants.

Increased Production

  • Production increased globally in 2018 by 25.9TWh.
  • It is expected to continue to rise due to the desire for renewable resources and that hydropower plays a considerable role in the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
  • The US had a decreased production due to the lack of rain in the northwest in 2018, one of the drawbacks to hydro power. Overall, the US has increased their output by 2,030 MW from 2006-2016.

O&M Costs

  • Hydro has seen a steep rising in O&M costs. The majority of these costs are blamed on aging equipment since the average age of a hydroelectric facility is 64 years.
  • Costs are highly site specific, but the larger scale the plant, the lower the cost is on a dollar to kilowatt basis to maintain.
  • Once a plant is operational, maintenance costs are usually low, as these plants require very little maintenance. Costs are rising due to the need for upgrades.
  • Rates have been rising higher than the cost of inflation. In some cases O&M has risen by 40% compared to inflation of 16%. These costs are especially hard for smaller plants to absorb.
  • From 1998 to 2017 operation costs have risen from $3.19 to $6.35 and maintenance has risen from $2.49 to $6.39 per MWh, a 146% increase. "
  • Specific hydro energy costs shared by the US Energy Department may be viewed in this study.

End Of Life- Assets & Digitization

  • By 2050, it is expected that practically half of the entire fleet of hydropower plants will require modernization.
  • Digitization has prompted the need for modernization. Innovations in digitization include cybersecurity, plant optimization, outage management, condition monitoring equipment, and energy forecasting.
  • One of the benefits of upgrading and digitization is ultimately reduced maintenance costs. This alone is driving innovation in the hydropower sector.
  • The average costs for upgrades are $1,500 per kW, but can range from $800-$20,000, with larger plants benefiting more than smaller cost wise.

Research Strategy

To be considered a trend, the topics must have been included multiple times in the research process and their needed to be evidence that this trend would continue into the foreseeable future. Reputable sources such as the US Energy Administration and the OECD were used to begin the research, then supplemental sources were found to support the trends. During research, it was noted that there was considerably less information on hydro energy compared to natural gas, wind, and solar.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Solar & Wind Power Plant Operations & Maintenance Trends

As with other forms of power, rising O&M costs have been observed. They are being combated with the use of larger scale productions and technology innovations. It is predicted that solar and wind production will remain popular options as the need for a sustainable environment remains important.

Increased Production

  • Solar had the highest increase in production in 2018, increasing from 274TWh to 325.8TWh, an 18.9% gain. The US led the growth in this sector. Solar production is expected to rise 19% in 2019.
  • Wind supplied 744.6TWh in 2018. Germany and the UK also showed considerable increases (7.5%, 14.1%), but was led by the US in production with 274.8TWh, an 8.1% increase.

Rising O&M Costs

  • Within the next couple years, wind energy is expected to hit a turning point, as operating expenses will be more than CAPEX. The aging fleet will soon cost more than a new development. The average age of installed wind capacity will increase to 14 years by 2030, up from 7in 2018. Currently, O&M costs account for 30% of the total cost of energy, with offshore plants having the highest costs. This has led to innovations to combat the costs that will be discussed below.
  • With wind power, blade erosion and repair are a huge concern and cause 5,000 days downtime globally. Older models suffer especially, with their smaller rotors.
  • In the solar sector, costs are predicted to double to over $9 billion by 2024.

Larger Scale Productions

  • As with other electricity producing forms, newer larger projects are averaging 25% less per MWh in O&M costs than ones using smaller turbines.
  • This is expected to be a key drivers to decrease O&M costs.

Technology Innovations to Combat O&M Costs

Wind Innovations

  • Drones are being used more and more for annual wind turbine blade and tower inspections, thus increasing safety, efficiency, and accuracy of these inspections. The time taken for inspections is drastically reduced, saving money. For instance, thermographic testing used to take multiple technicians multiple days, but now it can be done with a drone in just a few hours. It is expected that drone inspections will continue to grow, with 200,000 being completed per year by 2022. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) intends to launch its own drone inspection service. The company has decided to develop a dedicated drone platform along with software to process the large data collected by drones from a single turbine inspection. A standard inspection costs around $1,500 per tower, a drone could reduce this by 50%.
  • Ground based habitats have been created so that turbine blades can be refurbished and put back in service within 48 houris. This method eliminates poor weather issues affecting up-tower repairs.
  • Blade maintenance robots are being increasingly used to accomplish basic servicing in wind power production.

Wind Power Analytics & AI

  • Big data and analytics have the ability to streamline a process, if the plant effectively integrates them into their infrastructure.
  • AI in wind turbine data is becoming more prevalent, with a growing number using this technology. This enables the plant to have netter efficiency, parts forecasting, reduced downtime and lower unplanned maintenance costs. This data is pushed to a management system, letting the operator work with notifications on a dashboard or by email.
  • AI can pull information from SCADA data, maintenance data, and failure histories. An effective use is the automated detection of yaw misalignment, which can lead to lost production and increased loads in the turbine. Other examples are "pitch-bearing, generator stator insulation, and transformer failure prediction, as well as detection of poor bearing lubrication conditions."
  • Sensors are essential for AI data collection. MHI Vestas has developed SMART Fast Data solution that lets them collect data from over 1,000 sensors 1-50 times per second, giving them detailed health information.
  • The University of Manchester is conducting research called "Home Project", This research is aimed at reducing O&M costs through the use of new technologies by using big data and sensors, "advanced digital simulation, integration of wind through better forecasting, and use of robotics for O&M services. The project also intends to use the existing component performance data to analyze the components of other turbine parts".
  • The trend of condition monitoring is a technique to predict future problems and is a software feature. Gains are seen in maintenance and performance since maintenance and repairs are not reactive, but proactive.

Solar Digital Solutions in Analytics & AI

  • Research indicates as the solar O&M market grows, the need to decrease costs by implementing automations and digital platforms is rising, creating a trend.
  • Process automation enables the technician to spend less time in the field and be more efficient. A technician can now serve two to three times the megawatts by using these solutions.
  • Automation also improves the ability to mow, was modules, and even with security.
  • Advanced analytics lets the operators move from spreadsheet based analytics and save time while being more efficient. It also lets the plant focus on proactive, more organized maintenance. Considering the industry will see $16 billion in unplanned repairs in the next five years, the use for analytics is clear.
  • Monitoring systems are now being synced with real time diagnostic tools to make them more efficient. Examples of these analytics are "benchmarking of performance against similar plants (normalized for capacity and weather), and ongoing comparison of a given plant’s performance against a "digital twin" that models the expected behavior of the plant based on historical data and observed weather conditions."
  • Although we are yet to see a complete digital ecosystem, more and more facilities are moving towards this trend.
  • String inverters, microinverters and power optimizers are being coupled with monitoring and analytics to provide data at the string and module level. This enables better detection of issues inside the DC array.

Research Strategy

To be considered a trend, the topics must have been included multiple times in the research process and their needed to be evidence that this trend would continue into the foreseeable future. Reputable sources such as the US Energy Administration and the OECD were used to begin the research, then supplemental sources were found to support the trends.
Sources
Sources

From Part 03
Quotes
  • "Solar saw the highest relative increase in 2018 compared to 2017 out of all electricity sources, increasing from 274.0 TWh to 325.8 TWh, or +18.9%. Leading this growth were the United States (+18.2 TWh, +25.2%), Japan (+12.9 TWh, +21.8%) and Germany (+6.9 TWh, +17.4%). Most OECD countries had double digit growth rates, with some even higher, showing the strong push in some countries in favor of this technology."
  • "In 2018, wind generation supplied 744.6 TWh, 7.5% more than in 2017, led by the United States (274.8 TWh), Germany (114.1 TWh), the United Kingdom (56.6 TWh) and Spain (49.7 TWh). Wind supplied 18% of the power generation in Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. The largest increases came from the United States (+20.6 TWh, +8.1%), Germany (+7.9 TWh, +7.5%) and the UK (+7.0 TWh, +14.1%)."
Quotes
  • "Within the next couple of years, the wind operations and maintenance (O&M) industry is expected to hit a critical turning point. For the first time, operating expenses (OPEX) will eclipse capital expenditures (CAPEX). According to a 2018 IHS Markit Wind O&M Benchmarking report, an aging North American wind-turbine fleet will soon cost more than new developments."
  • "“The transition from CAPEX to OPEX is significant, and the wind industry will need to shift its focus away from infrastructure build and toward providing services and minimizing costs at existing projects,” Maxwell Cohen said in a press statement about the study. He is a co-author of the report and associate director with IHS Markit, a global provider of critical information and analysis."
  • "n fact, the average age of installed wind capacity is predicted to rise from seven years in 2018 to 14 years in 2030, finds the report. “And as projects age, they cost more, making the O&M business even more intriguing than it is today,” added Cohen. Currently, more than 50,000 utility-scale wind turbines comprising nearly 100,000 MW of generating capacity are installed in 42 U.S. states and 12 Canadian provinces and territories."
  • "One of the key findings from the IHS study: larger, newer wind projects have O&M costs averaging 25% less per megawatt-hour than ones using smaller turbines installed before 2010. More than 80% of the asset and operations managers who attended an ONYX InSight wind-turbine symposium held in Europe last summer agreed. The majority of delegates surveyed at the event said that larger and more efficient turbine technologies are the key drivers for reducing the wind industry’s LCOE or levelized cost of energy."
  • "Participants also cited a need for higher-quality data to improve the reliability of their assets, which includes the consistent use of condition monitoring for early failure detection and advanced maintenance schedules. ONYX InSight, a joint venture between Romax Technology and Castrol, is a predictive analytics partner for wind asset owners and operators. Through the use of physics-based and data-driven predictive analytics, it provides wind operators with options for better control and reduced costs in their operations."
  • "“A new generation of larger, more advanced turbines will mean more complex machinery, operating in harsher operating conditions around the world,” explained Evgenia Golysheva, Head of Consultancy at ONYX InSight, during her presentation at the 2018 symposium. “But it’s a mistake to think that all of these new technologies will be more reliable than their predecessors…or that operating costs will reduce naturally as the industry matures without an increased understanding and streamlining of operations and maintenance processes.”"
  • "While the focus on big data and advanced analytics has the opportunity to streamline O&M costs, it is of little value if wind operators are unable to properly access or effectively integrate it into their daily operations. It is also important that operators are aware of the advances in new O&M technology and services. "
Quotes
  • "Applying artificial intelligence (AI) to wind-turbine data is becoming more prevalent and there is a growing number of use cases for the technology. Many of these cases involve wind-turbine O&M practices and can result in increased efficiency, better spare-parts forecasting, reduced downtime, and lower unplanned maintenance costs."
  • "“The best definition of artificial intelligence is that it is set of methods or algorithms that use a large amount of data to learn rules or patterns, and continuously improves with additional data,” shares Rob Budny, Chief Reliability Officer at Ensemble Energy. He says most AI solutions are cloud-based, directing notifications to a dashboard or email, and many can work with a work-flow management system. "
  • "The sources from which AI can pull information may include: SCADA data (mean, minimum, maximum, and standard deviations), Maintenance data (component replacement dates, lubrication events, etc.), Failure histories Firmware updates CMS data (if available) "
  • "These data sources are then used to create models of normal turbine behavior, which serve to quickly identify abnormalities and notify the wind-farm operator. “The models monitor a turbine 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and relieve human operators of the tedious task of sifting through extremely large data sets in search of relevant insights,” explains Budny. He says one of the best examples of AI use cases is automated detection of yaw misalignment, which, if left undetected leads to lost energy production and increased loads on the turbine. Other examples include pitch-bearing, generator stator insulation, and transformer failure prediction, as well as detection of poor bearing lubrication conditions."
Quotes
  • "Annual wind-turbine blade and tower inspections by drone may greatly increase the safety, efficiency, and accuracy of an inspection service. What’s more is a drone equipped with high-resolution digital and infrared cameras can save time and costs, inspecting multiple wind turbines in the time it used to climb one. “Thermographic testing that used to require two to three wind technicians and several days can now be completed with one drone and one tech in just a few hours,” says Terry Malagoli, CEO, Infrared Testing, Inc. (ITI), which provides drone services for thermographic testing of wind farms."
Quotes
  • "“Three blades on one turbine can be refurbished and returned to service on the turbine in 48 hours,” says Daniel Boon, General Manager of GEV Wind Power and a former wind technician. GEV is an independent service provider for blade maintenance service, which offers a ground-based “Habitat” or enclosure with controlled environmental conditions. This method eliminates the standby periods that typically accompany poor weather and up-tower repairs."
Quotes
  • "Blade erosion and repair remain a huge concern in the offshore space, causing an estimated 5,000 days cumulative downtime globally and resulting in €61 million of direct repair costs and lost revenue. “Both turbine design and harsh operating conditions are to blame for the erosion," said Daniel Liu, principal wind analyst with WoodMac. "Newer models have larger rotors for more energy output while leading to higher tip speeds,” he adde"
Quotes
  • "Once a wind power plant (onshore or offshore) becomes operational, the operation and maintenance (O&M) cost accounts for approximately 30% of the total cost of energy from wind power plants. Offshore wind farms attract higher O&M costs in comparison to onshore wind farms due to higher turbine maintenance, high logistics costs, and lack of skilled manpower. "
  • "Offshore wind farms accounted for 8.2% of the total wind O&M market in 2016 with a market size of $1.12 billion. It is estimated that offshore wind O&M will continue to grow to reach $5.04 billion, equating to an 18.4% share of the total wind power O&M market in 2025. Therefore, development of new and innovative O&M techniques for reducing expenditure is important in terms of overall cost efficiency for wind power producers and the economic feasibility of projects. Cost reduction in O&M can be achieved by increased reliability of components, optimised operation, better control over technical conditions, technical solutions, improved maintenance, and better strategies for reduced downtime in case of failure. "
  • "As project margins are becoming narrower with every auction, project developers are looking for new and innovative methods and techniques for reducing O&M cost, leading to increased profitability for prolonged wind power plant operations. This essentially means the industry is looking toward automation, data analytics, smart technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) for effective maintenance of wind power assets with minimal human interference. Some of the upcoming O&M trends are discussed below: "
  • "Inspections by drones: With drone technology gaining popularity, average market growth of drone inspections is estimated at 13% per year until 2021, growing to 200,000 drone inspections per year by 2022 globally. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) intends to launch its own drone inspection service. To this effect, the company has decided to develop a dedicated drone platform along with software to process the large data collected by drones from a single turbine inspection. In Q3 2016, the Nordex Group entered into partnership with Lufthansa Aerial Services (LAS) for inspection of several Nordex wind turbines. Powerful sensor arrays in drones collect and transmit data on rotor blade conditions for expert analysis. Regular inspection of blades is necessary to diagnose and fix wear and tear due to erosion. "
  • "Drone inspection is likely to be widely adopted for offshore wind turbine inspection where accessibility is largely dependent on favourable weather and wave heights, especially now that new projects are constructed away from the shore to better utilise wind resources. Conventional methods of offshore wind turbine inspection involve aerial inspection by helicopters or transporting technicians on-site, both methods being highly cost-intensive coupled with a certain degree of risk. Therefore, elimination of the human factor, reduced cost, and the huge amount of data collected on software platforms through using drones are likely to give the project developers an edge for effective monitoring and timely maintenance of the turbines for longer life span and reduced capital expenditure. Proper analysis of the collected data also leads to reduced outage time and increased power production. A standard wind turbine inspection currently costs $1,500 per tower; performing the same task with the help of a drone cuts this by almost 50%. "
  • "Blade Maintenance Robot: In line with GE Renewable Energy’s innovation, SGRE is also developing blade robots for monitoring and basic servicing, including cleaning and polishing of wind turbine blades. The robots utilise a vacuum pump for vertically climbing up the rotor blades. SGRE collaborated with Rope Robotics in the development of blade maintenance robots that is scheduled for commercial launch in 2019, after a pilot project launch in 2018. As the new technology replaces human intervention with automation, it is not only safer but allows round-the-clock O&M even in adverse weather conditions. The GE blade robot is even fitted with a microwave scanner for verifying the structural integrity of blades. "
  • "Underwater drone: Blueye Robotics has developed a new underwater drone for cable surveys and inspection of cables from offshore wind turbines. Array cables and export cables are the most important part of offshore wind turbines as they transmit the power generated to the mainland. Therefore, an opportunity to conduct regular visual inspections of these cables and the surrounding sea bed can enable potential issues to be addressed at the right time before they become a problem. Combined with lower than usual capital expenditure and negligible operational expenditure, underwater drones can make visual inspections more frequent and less cumbersome for operators of offshore wind farms. Moreover, the Blueye underwater drone is operationally very simple to operate. "
  • "Automation and AI: Automation and AI will help collect data from various sources and analyse this on a software platform resulting in proper decision-making and effective functioning of the wind turbine for optimised power generation. Integrated with data analytics, automation can compile wind speed data, wind direction, weather conditions, and other crucial factors and adjust the pitch angle accordingly for optimised power generation. Data analysis of wind turbine performance report can also produce system-generated alerts on the health of the turbines for timely maintenance and replacement if necessary. Another solution to the automation of wind farms could be the Self-Erecting Nacelle System (SENSE). "
  • "MHI Vestas, which has been relying on CMS and SCADA to predict failures and improve turbine performance, has developed SMART Fast Data solution for collecting data from around 1,000 sensors 1–50 times per second. This gives a detailed insight into the health of the turbine resulting in increased availability and energy production. "
  • "Ongoing Research: The University of Manchester is conducting a research titled “Home Project” aimed at reducing O&M costs in wind turbines through the application of new technologies. The project includes the use of big data and sensors, advanced digital simulation, integration of wind through better forecasting, and use of robotics for O&M services. The project also intends to use the existing component performance data to analyse the components of other turbine parts"
  • "At present, O&M in both onshore and offshore wind power plants is undertaken manually on-site. As logistics and the supply chain contribute the bulk of the O&M cost, minimising human intervention with the help of robotics, airborne and underwater surveillance drones, and AI is necessary for increased power generation, cost-effectiveness, timely maintenance, and longevity of the wind turbines. The above-mentioned technologies integrated with AI in the form of deep machine learning is likely to recognise early signs of faults in wind turbines and their components, based on analysis of historical data."
Quotes
  • "Price pressure in solar O&M is driving the adoption of digital solutions. "
  • "Annual solar plant operations and maintenance (O&M) costs will double from nearly $4.5 billion in 2019 to over $9 billion in 2024. "
  • "New research from Wood Mackenzie finds that as the solar O&M market grows, global downward price pressure is driving the implementation of automated solutions and digital platforms for O&M, particularly process automation and asset management optimization. "
  • "Process automation can help the industry optimize technician time in the field, as well as other areas. Technician efficiency is already rising, as measured by how many megawatts of solar capacity can be served by a single technician, and that trend is expected to continue. "
  • "Technicians used to be able to service only 20 megawatts of solar capacity. Now, it’s possible for a single technician to serve 40 to 60 megawatts — more than doubling their efficiency in some cases. "
  • "Improving the efficiency of site tasks such as mowing, module washing and even security can help reduce overall O&M spend. "
  • "Asset owners and operators are also increasingly investing in advanced analytics and O&M-specific software. This allows them to move away from more time-consuming methods of spreadsheet-based analytics, reducing operational costs and increasing data quality. "
  • "Digital platforms for asset management can help minimize corrective repairs through proactive maintenance. Unplanned repairs alone can cost owners up to $3,000 per megawatt each year (based on an average-sized solar power system of 50 megawatts). The solar industry will see $16 billion of unplanned repairs over the next five years. "
  • "Although a significant portion of solar PV projects currently have a monitoring system in place, few are synced in real time with diagnostics tools. Even fewer conduct basic periodical performance assessments. Ideally, asset owners would have all operations running autonomously and linked to an enterprise resource planning system. However, an end-to-end digital platform is not yet the norm. Asset operators might deploy some of the digital solutions available, but have yet to implement a complete digital ecosystem"
  • "It also doesn’t make sense technically or commercially for owners of projects close to end-of-life to deploy an expensive and intelligent platform. An older plant’s data-acquisition system will not support all digital system requirements. "
  • "As the solar market hits 114.5 gigawatts globally this year — up 18 percent from 2018 — the O&M market will continue growing as well. Data from 2018 shows an ongoing trend of price pressure on O&M providers, which is inspiring competition at rock-bottom prices. Digital O&M is becoming more relevant as solar players seek to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and grow margins."
Quotes
  • "Solar operations and maintenance vendors are turning to technology innovation to remain competitive and profitable. "
  • "At a recent conference, I argued that current utility-scale PV operations and maintenance prices in the U.S. were dangerously low, posing a threat to quality of service and vendor survival. I added that O&M prices might bounce back after bottoming out, as they did in the wind industry a few years ago. "
  • "Scale matters, so O&M vendors have to race to increase their service-portfolio density to lower the cost of maintaining each plant (a battle mostly fought at the local level). O&M providers must also continuously improve the efficiency of operational processes and use modern technology, such as automatic detection of system issues and computerized maintenance management systems, to make their service staff more efficient. Furthermore, PV plants must be designed with serviceability in mind to minimize ongoing O&M costs. "
  • "String inverters, microinverters and power optimizers (together with the "smart modules" that integrate them) increase the granularity of monitoring and analytics by providing data at the string and module level. This enables finer detection of issues inside the DC array (like faulty or underperforming strings or modules) without the addition of additional hardware like smart string combiners. These technologies are gradually gaining market share, which is a clear sign that the industry is letting go of its tunnel vision on dollar-per-watt metrics, to embrace dollar-per-megawatt-hour metrics as more important data points to consider when making design and purchase decisions."
  • "To reduce maintenance costs and increase plant performance, O&M practices must evolve toward more detection and diagnosis of issues by remote supervision and operations centers. Both O&M providers and independent software vendors are investing in advanced data analytics. Buzzwords like "big data" and "deep machine learning" were mentioned by most O&M professionals interviewed for the new GTM report as some of the key innovations that will help them become more efficient and increase plant performance. "
  • "Advanced analytics features include, for example, benchmarking of performance against similar plants (normalized for capacity and weather), and ongoing comparison of a given plant’s performance against a "digital twin" that models the expected behavior of the plant based on historical data and observed weather conditions. However, use of these technologies so far remains limited. Monitoring software provider QOS Energy reports that only 10 to 20 percent of its clients currently use the benchmarking and digital twin functions built into the platform. "
  • "Another application of advanced analytics is to predict a future problem before it translates into a failure. The technology, known as condition monitoring in the wind industry, is now emerging as a differentiated software feature in the PV world. The gain is twofold: increased performance if the problem is resolved before production losses happen, and reduced maintenance costs if the O&M provider can replace or repair the component during a scheduled maintenance visit instead of reacting when it breaks. "
  • "With recent advances in digital infrared cameras, image processing and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), aerial thermography is gaining adoption in most markets, either as a substitute for IV curve tracing and VOC testing, or as an additional value-add service. "
  • "Robotic cleaning solutions are usually built into the power plant, although some solutions are designed to work with existing plant designs. They remain a marginal phenomenon limited to markets with large amounts of dust, high labor costs, or water-access and cost issues. However, as water scarcity increases in many parts of the world, especially the drier locations where most utility-scale PV plants are located, we can expect the technology to gain traction. "
  • "As PPA prices keep reaching new lows, ensuring that plants perform at or beyond expectations is more critical than ever, but unfortunately, the value of each kilowatt-hour produced has become so low that the ROI for upfront investments that increase production keeps getting longer. While some of the technologies mentioned in this article deliver strong returns when solar energy is priced at $100 per megawatt-hour, the economics become challenging when PPAs go below $50 per megawatt-hour. "
Quotes
  • "The quest for cost reduction in O&M is driving technology innovation in areas such as robotics and automation, as well as the development of more effective systems for asset management, monitoring, workflows and more. "
  • "The outlook for US solar appeared to take a turn for the worse when President Trump slapped a tariff on imported panels in 2018. Reuters reported that the move halted more than $2.5bn in investments in large projects, or more than a third of the total market size in 2017. Further analysis revealed that the impact of the tariff, aimed at Chinese products, would likely be blunted by manufacturers’ ability to supply panels from other parts of Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, the episode served to show that US solar growth may not be unstoppable. "
  • "This solar boom is being driven by ultra-low power-purchase agreement (PPA) prices. Such pricing is not necessarily a good thing for O&M, says Zachary Livingston, vice president of sales and head of the Americas business at Locus Energy. “There’s a race to the bottom,” he says. “But when you get into cost competition it’s not good for the industry.” "
Quotes
  • "Process Automation Price pressure across the value chain is driving the demand for more efficiency. To derive operations, maintenance and asset management efficiencies, companies are using software to automate these processes."