The Capacity Challenge


July 19, 2013

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In any relationship, setting expectations is key.

It’s a critical part of gaining trust and it can only ever be achieved through powerful and persuasive communication.

For examples of how not to do this, just ask any B-list celebrity.

For the wind industry though, it’s now time to sit up and take note.

However, before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a step back.

For, without wishing to start a diatribe about the need for effective communication, the reality of course is that expectations can only ever be set through a clear and consistent two-way industry engagement.

And let’s be blunt – the ability to set expectations isn’t just something that sits within the realm of government either.

After all, the vast majority of European governments can offer countless case studies of mismanaged energy policies that outline just how not to do it.

No, to my mind, having the foresight to accurately set and manage market expectation is too important to leave to chance.

And for individuals businesses, it’s exactly the kind of thing that needs to stay firmly under the control of senior management teams.

So it’s viewed in this light – when we talk about the delicate issue of setting expectations – that we stumble across the capacity challenge.

Wind capacity has become something of an established industry measurement and yardstick over recent years.

And it’s a figure that’s often trumpeted by the developers and project owners during the early stages of construction.

In other words, it’s become part of the established industry lexicon.

But does that make it right?

Because here’s the thing. While financiers and investors increasingly understand the complexities of wind energy generation – is there not a more accurate and realistic measurement that provides them with true power plant potential?

Capacity figures are wonderful and they’re easy to calculate. However, they’re impossible to achieve. And there’s a growing school of thought that suggests that they only ever serve to set a benchmark through which all future operating output will be measured against.

That’s pretty dispiriting stuff. And it can lead to all sorts of awkward conversations too – especially when owners and investors are looking for future incremental gains.

For the general public too, the capacity figure is in danger of doing more harm than good. For it provides fuel for the fire for naysayers and it’s intangible at best.

Far better then to talk in terms of clear and measurable specifics, to both investors and the wider public at large.

Recently, this thinking has already been taken onboard by some developers, who now seek to provide a clear link between the project and the volume of households that stand to gain.

However, this still takes into consideration the upper capacity limit, so while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s by no means perfect.

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