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India needs clean MWh’s… and not just MW’s…!


Below are the excerpts of our recent interview with Mr. Praveen Kakulte, CEO, Powercon

What is the role of Operations & Maintenance for effectiveness in the wind business?

O&M is the lifeline of wind business.

During operations phase, wind turbines are required to deliver optimal electric yield while maintaining a safe & sound technical state over its operating life. The function of O&M is to squeeze, optimise and regulate delivery of electric  power  while  ensuring upkeep of the plant. In that, perform cyclic maintenances, breakdown restorations; enhance technical reliability, combat production loss elements, act & forecast, and practise innovations to ensure peak performance while producing clean electricity, efficiently!

O&M guarantees optimum power delivery complying with technological advancements over lifetime.

What are the key performance factors for a wind power plant during operations phase?

Effective use of collective intelligence captured  from  the  in-built  sensoric of wind assets with a 3-dimensional performance orientation enables harnessing of winds profitably –

1. Yield Maximisation

2. Asset Longevity

3. Reduced O&M cost per kWh

What is to be understood from yield maximisation? How do we achieve it?

Yield maximization is about making a wind power plant operate to the fullest available and true potential, at any point of time. It’s an industry myth that, the returns on investment are influenced by  ‘Availability’; the truth however is that, the ‘Operational Efficiency’  during  the  Available period determines the returns!

Lost production due to reasons of impaired operational efficiency could be much high- er than the ones due to reduced availability.

O&M actions to secure higher ‘operational availability’ and to make the plant ‘operationally efficient’ results into a  technically sound & yield maximised plant. The direction and gravity of O&M actions evolve from a vigilant, transparent and pro-active IT enabled asset management system for plant governance.  Operations steered with KPI’s and dashboards on operational efficiency, MWh losses, lost production factor, external & internal loss contributory elements on a near real time basis ascertains maximised yield, continually.

What is typical of an IT enabled asset management system? How does it help the wind business?

SCADA infrastructure associated with renewable energy plants has a far greater potential than its current level of use. During operation, the plant continually reveals massive data that unfolds story of its performance. Imagine of a mechanism that enables an Extrasensory Perception (ESP) about plant performance… Yes, an IT enabled  asset management  system  is all about revelation, feel & proactive engagement of O&M personnel through visualisation, monitoring, analytics, diagnostics and actions based on massive data.

Integration of different makes, different technologies like wind, solar or  hydro,  with remote command & control on a single view platform permits bridging of the transparency gap between the operating assets and the owner.

Intelligent dashboards, KPI’s & algorithms built with wind O&M experience help clear visualisation and steering of plant operations remotely or on the go thus making O&M simple!

Results of such set up are -

a. Power plant with ‘online real time monitoring and visualisation’ on desktops or handheld enables issue identification and coordination of efforts among the field & central teams facilitating quick restoration, QA & vigilance. Result -reduced down time, increased availability & hence enhanced production.

b. Turbine data ‘analytics’ brings transparency and focus on power performance issues, triggering actions for alignments and improvements to achieve functionality commensurate  with  power  curve.   Result inexplicable contributors towards energy loss eliminated, increase in operational efficiency and hence yield.

c. Time stamped data for ‘diagnostics’ identifies the failure elements & elementary or compounded causes. Result – combat & reduce failures, build component reliability hence increased operational availability.

d. Correlation diagnostics & trend analysis of historic data enable ‘predictive analytics’ using a self-learning logic. Result –prevention of prospective losses, basis for developing neural networks for self-corrective actions.

e. Larger capacity plants could have ‘remote Command & Control’ enablement to ramp up/down levels, manage grid bottleneck, switch on/off or reset faults, Result – reduce losses, responsive management to load shedding hence optimised yield.

A well-equipped asset management system provides avenues to manage performance at ease and makes O&M interesting….thus, giving a dedicated clutch and control on park performance.

What factors influence asset life? What’s the best way to enhance it?

Wind turbines do undergo harsher conditions than estimated during design phase. The environmental or grid aggression varies from location to location  despite  the classification being under a common design base.

One experiences temperature variations from 4 to 51 degrees over a small span in Rajasthan, compounded with impact of dust. The Gujarat coast is saline  enough  to rapidly deposit salt on turbine controllers; Maharashtra weather brings fungi and algae on blade surfaces during the monsoon.

Aero-braking on grid failure induces mas- sive counter-rotational energy to the foundation through the turbine drive chain stressing it substantially. Pitch angle varia- tions cause imbalance and hence unwar- ranted cyclic stresses on load carrying componentry. Ingress of sand or moisture at frictional interfaces is a slow killer of the turbine. Such aspects remaining unrecog- nised & unattended lead to pre-mature failures at a later date, affecting turbine life longevity.

Data analytics & diagnostics supplemented with O&M expert advice for implementation of solutions like LVRT, laser alignments for pitch, yaw corrections using ultrasonic anemometers etc. would solve some of the potentially hazardous conditions.

Proactive strategies to detect and manage failures ahead of time, and ability   to eliminate the root cause instead of just fixing the failure, is the key for Asset Longevity.

What are major contributors for O&M cost? What could be a reasonable cost for O&M?

O&M costs go higher with age of turbine. The two heaviest but controllable aspects of O&M costs are Man & Material. Technological obsolescence & compliances to statutes call for updates at costs.

For a typical MW class turbine with~24% CF and ~5 years age, O&M costs should  be controllable to a level of INR ~0.35 to 0.40 per unit. Moving to a mid-life bracket the O&M costs could be INR ~0.50 to  INR 0.55 per unit.

How do you perceive the O&M service function in wind industry?

Industry treats service as repairs or main- tenance function. That’s not very nice. Service truly is a ‘Production’ function.

A modern wind park with attributes of power plant is a power manufactory to deliver ‘clean & regulated electricity’. The service technicians are responsible for pro- duction of electricity and hence are organ- ised in a production setup, round the clock.

Lastly, any message you would like to give to the industry?

Yes, Sure! The policies and hence focus for renewables is generally dwelling upon the quantum of MW installations. The return on investment however is based on MWh delivered, seeking a change in policy perspective. 

There’s a need to reorient the policies towards ‘produced energy – MWh’ from the current ‘installed power - MW’.

If we can enhance production from the now and new renewable installations by effectively squeezing the maximum, then we can offset the need to install additional sub-optimised power plants making wind business more profitable.

IT enabled Asset governance at a fraction of the cost of the assets can substantially raise the operational efficiency & efficacy of the power plants. A rise in yield by ~10% over the present level is equivalent to nullifying the need of a capital investment of ~10% for new plant additions.

The national target of 175 GW by 2022 less ~36GW of todays installed base, needs a serious relook to intentionally drop the needed GW additions by ~10% and instil policy measures to enhance plant opera- tional efficiency that would result into delivery of the finally ‘needed GWh of energy’ notwithstanding the lowering of ‘to be installed GW power’.

Profoundly, India needs MWh’s of energy at an affordable rate and not mere MW’s of installed power…!