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Mangement, Maintanance and Risk Assesment

  1. Are there any training courses for wind project management available?
  2. What are the most common stumbling blocks experienced by wind farm developers?
  3. Is it absolutely necessary to employ a consultancy for a Cost Benefit Analysis and risk assessment?
  4. I'm thinking about investing in a wind farm development. What do I need to ask the developer in order to minimise the risk to my investment?
  5. What are the current and longer term risks to the industry?
  6. What is the current state of the technological developments in wind turbines?
  7. What are the chances of installed technology becoming obsolete?

  1. Are there any training courses for wind project management available?

    The IWEA organises a  comprehensive range of training courses to members relating to wind project management and the wind industry in Ireland.  These courses are supported through the Wind Skillnets programme.

    Wind Skillnet is funded by member companies and The Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd, funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. 

     For further details and a full list of upcoming courses see here

  2. What are the most common stumbling blocks experienced by wind farm developers?

    The following are some of the most common issues that have presented developers with considerable obstacles

    • Delays in obtaining Grid Connection Offer - There are serious delays currently being experienced in the Grid Connection offer process. Without a grid connection offer, the developer cannot commence works, confirm finance etc... 
    • Getting a turbine ordered - Wind energy deployment is rapidly increasing year on year. This means that the ready availability and supply of turbines is significantly reduced. Consequently there can be lengthy waiting periods for a turbine order to be confirmed and a delivery date finalised.
    • Planning permission expiring -  There have been a number of cases in Ireland where delays in the Grid Connection Offer process have been so severe that the 5 year planning permission that was originally granted lapsed. If "substantial works" have not commenced on site, then the developer will have to re-apply for planning permission. It is crucial that the developer applies for their grid connection offer at the earliest point possible, in order to mitigate against the consequences of substantial (i.e. in years) delays.
    • Landowner issues - Without legally agreed wayleaves, unresolved disputes can result in the lengthy delaying of the construction of your grid connection. If your connection is non-contestable (i.e built by the operator) then you have no official control or input into resolving any dispute. If this is the case you are then potentially subject to the delays/issues/conflicts in an external negotiation between two outside parties, while you bear the cost in terms of delaying the development
  3. Is it absolutely necessary to employ a consultancy for a Cost Benefit Analysis and risk assessment?

    Developing a wind farm is a high risk business, with many factors influencing the financial viability of the project. As well as the stumbling blocks mentioned above, small differences in factors such mean annual wind speeds, the nature of the site, location on/proximity to the grid network, can have large consequences for future revenues and costs.

    Therefore it is highly advisable that you carry out a proper cost benefit analysis or feasibility study and accurate risk assessment before investing in a such a highly capital-intensive industry.

    It should also be noted that it is highly likely that any bank who is considering financing the project would require such studies.

  4. I'm thinking about investing in a wind farm development. What do I need to ask the developer in order to minimise the risk to my investment?

    You need to ask have they carried out a feasibility study or cost benefit analysis for the project. This should include:

    • Highly accurate, site specific, wind speed measurements and predicted annual mean wind speeds
    • Projected revenues and Operating Costs including loan servicing
    • Estimation of Grid use Charges

    Ensure that the developer has/has agreed to purchase the appropriate insurance. You should also inquire as to their plans to ensure that they avoid the stumbling blocks stated above.

  5. What are the current and longer term risks to the industry?

    In addition to the difficulties currently being experienced which have been highlighted above, In the more immediate term, the lack of any substantial development of the transmission and distribution networks in the last 10 years is inhibiting wind farm development and renewable generation in general and will continue to do so until the issues preventing/delaying the expansion of the network are resolved.

    In terms of the longer term risks the wind farm development, possibly the biggest threat to the industry is future price volitility in the energy market.

    It is generally acceptd that while energy prices have fluctuating significantly in recent times, a total price collapse in the energy market is unlikely* in the immediate future; however, recent market sources have suggested that the current price for gas is artificially high and may decline significantly in the future. Also with further wind farm developments the amount of wind generation on the system will increase.

    As these generators have zero fuel costs more and more generators on the system will be operating at zero marginal cost. This has the effect of lowering the overall market price. Thus a fall in the price of gas coupled with an increased amount of renewable generation could lead to a significant decline in market prices. Which may jeopardise the servicing of wind farm debt repayments.



    *Barring the advent of cold fusion or a similar leap forward in current technology

  6. What is the current state of the technological developments in wind turbines?

    Wind Turbine engineering and design is in a constant process of improvement. Turbines have moved on considerably from the initial models deployed and have left problems of noise pollution, and inefficient yeilds behind.

    Turbines are becoming larger, quieter and more efficient at yielding the maximum amount of energy possible out of a given wind speed. Wind turbine technology continues to improve benefiting from the presence of a considerable number of manufacturers in the market leading to intensive competition.

  7. What are the chances of installed technology becoming obsolete?

    The typical lifespan for a wind turbine is typically some where between 10-15 years. At the end of their lifetime they may be replaced by more efficient turbines. While other more efficient and diverse technologies may be developed in the future, the basic benefit of wind energy (i.e zero fuel costs) will remain.

    Thus for the individual developer, while there is a chance that future investment opportunities in other technologies may be missed due to tied up capital, it is highly unlikely in the short to medium term that there will be no market for the zero marginal cost energy produced from their turbines.

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