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07.12.2018 How much longer are you going to live?

On 01.01.2021, a large number of wind turbines will begin to lose their eligibility for EEG (Renewable Energy Act) remuneration in Germany each year. The question is becoming more urgent: What comes after that? Two things are of central importance here. On the income side, there is the remuneration. On the cost side, maintenance expenses are likely to be the largest item.

The topic is currently being driven forward by a number of direct energy marketers who are already creating and offering remuneration models for the ‘post-EEG era’. One of the main reasons for this is that they want to stock up on green electricity ahead of time and make sure they have their requirements covered for a period of three to five years. It is hard to say whether now is the right time to sign a purchase agreement. Reliable forecasts for the development of electricity prices do not exist, but most people are expecting prices to rise.

Be that as it may, all other market partici- pants probably welcome the early discussions. It means that preparations can be made in a timely fashion.

Operators can take care of licensing, leasing and operational management issues without much time pressure:

  • How much longer can my wind turbine/wind farm at the site continue to operate?
  • What requirements need to be fulfiled?
  • How long does the lease run?
  • Can leasesbe adjusted to reduced yields?
  • What does a lean operational management model look like?

Other important questions come from the maintenance area:

  • What condition are the turbines in?
  • What does the expert opinion on fulfilment of further operating conditions look like?
  • What is the expert opinion on the total costs of maintenance?
  • Which maintenance contract makes sense?
  • What are the risks? How can they be distributed?

This short selection of questions shows that a very individual approach is necessary. A car can be used as an analogy. The condition of two cars of the same age can be significantly different, depending on the model, usage, mileage and care.

The good news in the case of many wind turbines is that they can easily run for an additional ten years, despite only being designed for a service life of twenty years “Now we have to discuss the concepts. From basic maintenance to full maintenance, everything is still being offered. But maintenance and operational management must be closely coordinated to prevent duplicate work. All expert opinions should be closely coordinated with the service company to use data, experience and on-site visits as a source of information,” said Matthias Brandt, Board Director at Deutsche Windtechnik.

Exploring new paths together

The simplest concept on the market today is usually to continue operation until the next major damage occurs. But that is just one way of looking at it. If preparations are made in a timely fashion, cost-reducing measures can be initiated with appropriate help from experts. Many options can be added as needed, such as interfaces for the wind turbine, uptower repairs, customised repair and spare parts concepts, and much more. Direct energy marketers and maintenance staff should know and fulfil their obligations at an early stage. Synergies can be achieved between the two parties in areas such as forecasts, documentation, data and reporting.

One thing remains essential: Everyone should address questions of maintenance and feed-in well in advance.

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