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Maximizing Wind Farm Profitability: Top tips for Checking Availability

Updated: Jul 3

Analysing Windfarm data

As a wind farm owner, you’re acutely aware that your bottom line hinges on more than just the strength of the wind. The operational efficiency of your turbines is paramount, and at the heart of this efficiency lies the availability warranty provided by your Operations & Maintenance (O&M) providers.


Low availability is never good news for a wind farm owner as it will rarely be possible to recover all losses through an availability warranty. Therefore, the primary goal will always be the optimal performance and careful maintenance of the turbines.


However, a good availability warranty will provide a buffer against the financial cost of such circumstances. When it comes to calculating availability, it's remarkable how even slight dips in availability can trigger significant compensation payouts through liquidated damages. This underscores the importance of an accurate calculation of availability.


The Dynamics of Availability Warranties


Let's explore the financial ramifications when availability drops. While a reduction from 97% to 96% might seem marginal, the financial impact can be substantial.


Depending on the availability contract and the PPA, a 1% difference in the annual contract availability for a 20 MW wind farm could result in a €60,000 swing in liquidated damages.


Of course, the bigger the wind farm, the bigger the impact of even the tiniest change in availability. For example, for a 70 MW wind farm, a mere 0.1% difference in availability could be worth €20,000.


Top tips for Checking Availability


Considering the importance of accurate availability, here are some things we’ve learned over the years in checking an OEM’s figures.


  • Accuracy: In our experience, the lower a site’s availability, the less accurate the OEM’s assessment will be. The relationship is roughly linear, with up to a 20% margin of error in reported non-available downtime. For example, if an OEM claims that the availability is 98%, in reality it is likely to be somewhere between 97.6% and 98.4%. If the claim is 85%, it could actually be as low as 82% in reality

  • Grid outages: SCADA systems rarely get things right during grid outages. The general breakdown in systems as well as frequent lack of comms mean that the data is often missing or simply wrong. Knowing exactly when the grid came back online is important here. This can form the basis of the discussion with the OEM on how any additional downtime will be treated for availability.

  • Generator heating: Often after a grid outage but sometimes after regular faults, generator heating will be applied to turbines in order to prevent damage upon re-energisation. However, control systems can sometimes get this wrong, leaving the turbine is heating mode for far longer than required. This can and should be challenged.

  • Transformer faults: For some OEMs, the bulk of time associated with transformer faults is recorded as no comms (and thus available) rather than as a fault.

  • Alarm grouping: Some SCADA monitoring systems group alarms where an entire event will be categorised with the same category as the first alarm in the group. This could mean that the entire event is incorrectly categorised as available. These alarms need to be ungrouped to maintain accuracy.


The Value of Regular Availability Reviews


Given the substantial financial implications, thorough availability reviews are essential. The more forensic they get, the more accurate the result. Here’s how they can benefit:


  • Liquidated Damages: Having an accurate calculation of availability will ensure that no money is left on the table when negotiating annual availability with the O&M provider.

  • Detection of Issues: Routine reviews can help identify problems that may be hidden in the data, such as recurring faults or high temperature warnings.

  • More Diligent Maintenance: An O&M provider who knows that availability is being forensically examined will naturally be more diligent in maintaining high availability, ensuring optimal turbine performance.


EnergyPro specialise in providing comprehensive availability reviews. Our team of experts have years of experience in the forensic examination of alarms and ten-minute data, identifying discrepancies and inconsistencies in the availability figures. We also have a wealth of experience in availability negotiations, dealing with all the major OEMs on a regular basis.


If you’re looking for advice on your availability figures or if you’re interested in our service, we’d be happy to chat over a Teams call or by phone. Contact Lughaidh at lughaidh.obroin@energypro.ie to arrange a suitable time.


Conclusion


In the high-stakes world of wind farm operations, every percentage point of availability is a crucial component of profitability. While we never want to see low availability, it is essential the figures are accurate in the unfortunate event that it is. Small differences can lead to substantial differences in compensation payouts. Regular availability reviews are not just a best practice—they're a financial necessity.

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