53% express doubts on wind resources

How confident are you in your wind measurements?


July 9, 2020

How confident are you in your wind measurements?

Last week, A Word About Wind hosted the latest in our webinar series, called The Watt Seat, which focuses on key issues that affect investors in wind.

In the latest edition Reading the Wind, we looked at the impact of wind measurement systems on project investments; and how the industry can make progress to boost returns. If you missed that discussion you can access it here.

We ran this webinar in partnership with ZX Lidars, and featured experts from Iberdrola, MUFG, RES and Siemens Gamesa. We also ran a poll with attendees that showed there are concerns over how wind is measured at their projects and the impacts that this has on profits. Those findings included:

  • Only 47% of respondents are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that their wind farms are performing as predicted. A further 43% are ‘quite confident’ and the other 10% are ‘not confident at all’.
  • Validating actual performance against predicted output was cited as the main priority for attendees (46%) when assessing performance at wind farms. Long-term wind production forecasting ranked second (25%).
  • Getting financial institutions to accept new measurement systems was cited as the main obstacle (46%) to advances in wind monitoring systems. Making progress on technical standards ranked second (33%).

This shows us that accurate wind resource forecasts and monitoring are vital for wind farm operators and investors. They want to see improvements that boost their confidence in the accuracy of those results. However, the industry would be able to move faster if investors and certification bodies were able to adapt more quickly.

Monitor wizards

Our expert panel focused on the potential for lidars to replace met masts at onshore and offshore schemes.

Peter Stuart, technical director at RES, said that shift has been happening more quickly offshore due to the cost and difficulty of installing met masts at sea. But he added that he expected significant change in the next few years onshore, due to the low cost and risk of lidar compared to met masts.

He explained how RES has installed 2,000 of met masts globally and around 2%, or 40, have collapsed in a dangerous way: “That does feel like a risk that can be designed out now through the use of lidar,” he said, and added that he expected RES to be ‘met mast free’ in some of the regions where it operates in the next few years.

For investors, the concern will be whether lidars can offer the accurate long-term data on which they can make financial decisions.

Ignacio Pantojo Titos, manager of floating offshore wind at Iberdrola Renewables, said that developers wanted systems that could check the official turbine output data from the manufacturers. He added certification bodies should do more to help the technology.

Raphael Rouvin, vice president of power and renewables for the EMEA region at MUFG, said that bringing in enough data was main concern for those in the financial community: “We always have more confidence if there is long-term data and consistency in the data that we analyse,” he said.

Rouvin said one potential risk of lidar is that it does not usually give the long-term data in the way met masts do. But he added that the growth of floating wind would increase the use of lidar industry-wide, and that projects were being financed using lidar data alone.

“I think we will see more and more projects backed based purely on data from lidars,” he said. Rouvin also highlighted that it was difficult for bankers to get involved in the highly technical discussions about wind measurement methods. This means it can take time for them to get comfortable with new systems, even those that promise to boost profitability.

This is likely to delay progress and mean profit-boosting changes take time to implement across the industry – but it won’t totally derail progress.

Ioannis Antoniou, senior advisory engineer at Siemens Gamesa said work was ongoing to find ways to mount lidars in turbine nacelles for even more accurate measurements.

“As we speak, work is being done in this field… The turbines are getting larger and the lidars are getting cheaper. It only makes sense that we are going to have lidar on top of the turbine as part of the standard control,” he said.

As lidars get higher, investor confidence should do too.

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