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How O&M became business-critical and what it means for the future

As the wind industry continues to grow and mature, O&M models for the servicing of wind farms are becoming more diversified. With increasing competition and margins under pressure, it’s crucial to adopt an O&M model that is cost-efficient while securing high availability.

Over the last decade, while the wind industry was still maturing, most development companies had a clear focus on portfolio growth. This resulted in a quick build-up of competencies around project development and construction, with less focus on O&M strategies.

But as more owners in the industry became industrial – overseeing GWs rather than MWs of installed capacity – the need for more strategic asset management became apparent. Like other industry players with roots in the conventional energy sector, EC&R adopted the proven approach that has been applied to hydro, coal, gas and nuclear assets for over 100 years: performance optimization during operational lifetime, and lifetime extension to maximise returns on both past and future investments.

Choosing the right O&M model

Today, there are three main wind O&M service models available in the market: OEM services, Independent Service Provider services and self-perform/in-house O&M:

Buying a wind turbine from a manufacturer typically comes with an OEM (full) service contract. Such a contract is important to guarantee the quality of the turbine but falls short due to the associated higher price tag.

Independent Service Providers (ISP) offer O&M services across a range of brands and models, providing regular scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. ISPs help reduce costs and make the market competitive. ISPs operating their own assets bring the additional advantage to approach service and maintenance from an owner’s perspective.

The self-perform or in-house concept offers high returns for achieving higher availability rates as owners have a long-term interest to drive performance. However, self-perform involves setting up in-house teams to conduct maintenance activities and is costly and potentially not affordable for every owner.

The owner’s perspective

Around 2010, EC&R took the very first step towards in-house O&M, using a mixed-team approach at the Rödsand 2 offshore windfarm in Denmark. At the time, the concept of an ‘active owner’ was still a novelty in the industry. The wind industry did not seem to believe this approach was applicable to wind assets, despite the fact that a similar approach had been applied 80 years before in hydro plants. Being innovative payed off for EC&R: the strategy developed into a self-perform concept which resulted in improved performance. The availability of the farms went up, while the costs started to go down– in some cases, quite drastically.

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