Energy firms seek turbine data access

GERMANY: Large energy companies are demanding access to wind turbine data in order to wrest control of operations and maintenance (O&M) from manufacturers, who often keep this information behind closed doors.

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Germany's power-engineering federation VGB Powertech is planning a "declaration of wind turbine owners" that will set out their "rights" to this information.

The initiative looks predestined to create friction between VGB members - large energy companies such as utilities E.on, RWE and Dong Energy - and turbine manufacturers and medium and small wind-farm developers.

Turbine manufacturers offer long-term O&M contracts, while medium and small wind farm developers like to benefit from the steady revenue stream earned as technical operator of the wind projects after their sale. Relinquishing this job to large utilities would hardly be a favoured option for any of these companies.

Speaking in June, Ulrich Langnickel, head of renewables and distributed generation at VGB Powertech, said that the major energy companies like E.on and RWE want to be able to operate wind turbines themselves, just as they operate conventional power stations.

"They aim to achieve the highest efficiency of operation, implementing maintenance concepts and optimal co-ordination with other power stations," he said. "But for this, the turbine manufacturer must provide turbine documentation on installation, maintenance and so on."

Safety requirements

Langnickel also stressed the need for drawing up technical requirements such as maintenance and health and safety standards. "Turbine owners are not always informed of when maintenance is done. What if there is an accident? The owner is liable," he complained. Further, operating data is not always made available although it is the property of the owner, he added.

VGB group argues that all Scada (the data collation systems for monitoring and control of wind turbines) and service reports should be managed by the turbine owner. Information should flow from the owner to the manufacturer and not the other way round, according to VGB.

Service and corrective maintenance manuals are an absolute must for the owner, it says. Large operators should have full technical documentation as they need to be able to perform lifecycle cost analysis from the first day of operation. Also, owners need to be able to extract the mean time between failures in order to assess the need for spare parts and work hours for repairs and maintenance. All in all, the aim has to be to keep the costs of wind energy as low as possible, Langnickel argued.

Large energy companies have only been heavily involved in onshore wind since around 2010. Their interest in the sector was prompted by the EU target for 20% renewables in the energy supply chain by 2020. It was further boosted last year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and the German government's reversal of its decision to extend nuclear operating lifetimes that followed.

A spokesman for turbine manufacturer Enercon said that it already provides customers with extensive information including electronic real-time data via its service info portal. "Enercon offers its customers a broad range of possibilities to monitor their wind turbines and to call up their own data for evaluation as needed," he said.

A spokesman for Nordex declined to comment until the contents of the declaration is known. It is due to be published by the end of the year.

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