Brazil Windpower 2014: operations and maintenance are key focus as installations reach 5GW

Windpower Monthly is reporting from Brazil Windpower 2014 conference in Rio de Janeiro. If you are at the event, visit Windpower Monthly at stand 157.

Brazil's wind industry celebrated its achievement of reaching 5GW installations
Brazil's wind industry celebrated its achievement of reaching 5GW installations

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Day one of the fifth Brazilian wind energy conference featured over 30 technical presentations covering detailed issues of operations and maintenance, project planning, Brazil’s energy mix, the grid and supply chain challenges to achieve the growth plans of over 2GW per year. "We are doing everything in this market now," said Elbia Melo, executive president of Brazil’s wind association Abeeolica. This week the association announced Brazil has reached 5GW of installed wind capacity.

The issues now for wind power in Brazil are enviable, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council. With over 140 wind projects due to start this year, the supply chain is under pressure to deliver, there will be pushback from incumbent generation suppliers who see their share being taken away, and with hydro sources in Brazil having diminished recently, the optimal mix of generation sources must be established to fit with the rest of available resources.

Too costly

There must be cost reduction in the supply chain now said Eduardo Tosta of Industrial Development Agency (ABDI). Its research found a lack of competition and high costs for local steel partly responsible. Improved planning across the sector to avoid bottlenecks would help cut costs, Tosta added. One expected bottleneck in the construction process is the supply of services for installation, such as cranes.

"With each crane, you need about 40 trucks, and with the accumulation of projects and a lack of planning, a bottleneck is likely," he said. Echoing Melo’s comments to Windpower Monthly yesterday, Tosta noted that more supplies of flanges, welded and large machined parts and bearings are still needed in the market to avoid another bottleneck in the fast growing supply sector.

Over the next ten years, Brazil will need new generation capacity of 70GW, according to Mauricio Tolmasquim, chairman of the EPC energy research company, and representing the government at the opening event. After the greater amount is delivered by hydro, he recommends that wind deliver 20GW. The remaining capacity would be divided: 9GW to thermal — essential investment to avoid power-outs — and 3GW to biomass.

Transmission issues that had affected some new wind projects – where a delay in construction of transmission systems secured through auction saw wind projects compensated with public money for their finished sites that were unable to deliver power to the grid — is now resolved, Tolmasquim confirmed. "We are bringing forward transmission construction, through auctions, for both a regulated or free market. The risk is returned to the investor, not the public," Tolmasquim said.

Operation improvements

To retain the interest of investor in operating projects, owners should follow simple project management processes to improve energy production, Sebastian Herzoy of consultancy DEWI told delegates.  "Clients in Brazil are often querying why after two or three years, their projects are not delivering revenues as expected and the cost of operation is increasing. Yet mitigation of this risk is easy," he said. Start with quality products, and maintain high levels of wind measurements and energy yield assessments of the project. A target of 98% availability of the turbine is reasonable, he said. Underperforming sites are often based on an original over estimation of wind at the sites, not using the most suitable technology, and failing to manage the project operation. "We have have found broken bearings from vertical forces, twisted blades through turbulence – even one that was touching the tower, that had not been spotted," he said.

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