Connecting the dots in renewable energy development
The development of any asset is a lengthy and time-consuming effort. From the initial inception, information gathering, planning and finally through to collecting initial feedback (and improving on the plan as a result), all these steps are appropriate whether you are planning to buy a house or develop something like a wind or solar energy project. But imagine that your approach involves collecting information and feedback from different sources with most or all of them working to different assumptions, timelines and in a non-sequential fashion. This means that you have to spend a lot of time reiterating earlier steps because of delays in obtaining revised information, potentially resulting in endless feedback loops, reiterations of your plans and added unforeseen project costs. Most people try to avoid this disjointed process as it can be exhausting and frustrating. Yet this is exactly how the renewables industry still conducts most of its energy assessments.
It is still quite normal in the project development phase to mix internal work with that of external consultants, but even more confusingly, to mix the offerings and methodologies from different consultants. Although this might appear to be the most cost-effective method in the immediate moment, developers ultimately pay a significant time and cost penalty over the long-term as the different interfaces are not seamless. It seems counterintuitive that the renewables industry, which uses such advanced processes, development methods and technology, would implement an approach which complicates the development process.
Increasingly developers are looking for another way to avoid these issues by focusing on a continuous transition from site selection, through to measurement campaigns, layout design and ultimately a bankable assessment. Right from the start, this approach helps you easily plan when tasks need to be undertaken and when you will have your end result (e.g. a bankable project). You can then optimize the other required activities (commercial and contractual negotiations with landowners, the authorities and manufacturers, as well as investors!), therefore minimizing delays and providing clear visibility on your development pipeline. At the same time, you can catch errors and inconsistencies as early as possible and calculate the impact on the overall timeline accurately.
This approach provides price and time certainty, and methodological consistency allowing developers to realize both time and costs savings over the whole development lifecycle which is difficult to achieve under the current industry approach.
For a consultancy, this process involves working with customers to help them identify the ideal project configuration and create a measurement campaign that meets best practice (e.g. minimizes uncertainties). Continuous monitoring of that campaign helps to ensure enough quality data is collected as quickly as possible. At the same time, other services that could prove vital at later stages of development (e.g. mapping, CFD modelling, constraints analyses, site conditions reviews) can be undertaken early without slowing processes down in the future. This ensures that customers know exactly when they will have enough wind data to undertake a bankable assessment, while that assessment should happen faster because many of the original steps have already been completed, such as data cleaning, flow modelling, etc. Similarly, a customer can start critical discussions with suppliers and other stakeholders earlier than would normally happen, exactly because the data they need from their site in a timely fashion.
In fact, some of our customers have already benefitted from this approach. Recently, we worked with a large international project developer to streamline their development approach exactly as described above. This has equipped them with the required visibility and certainty of their project pipeline, enabling them to plan and develop much more efficiently. But this process is not only relevant to large developers. Every organisation needs the clarity to forecast the long-term with a high level of certainty and can benefit from this streamlined approach.
Using this approach, all developers and the wider renewables industry will be able to move more quickly and efficiently through project development, therefore helping to better meet the needs of our energy system and legally binding carbon reduction targets.