April 17, 2020 — Customer Stories
How data helps smaller IPPs to be lean and green
We talk to Polish developer Mashav Energia about how Greenbyte has helped it work with suppliers, run a lean TCM team and boost resilience
Director of Marketing, Greenbyte
It can often seem like the renewable energy industry is dominated by multinational utilities and investors with deep pockets and huge teams.
The enviable resources of these companies mean that, in theory, they have greater capacity to optimise the performance of their renewable energy assets than smaller rivals. How can smaller independent power producers (IPPs) – including developers and owner-operators – achieve similar results?
The answer is, unsurprisingly, with effective use of data. In the wind sector, turbines produce huge amounts of data every hour. Using the right data platform can enable these smaller companies to identify anomalies and make necessary improvements.
In this case study we look at one company, Mashav Energia, that is doing just that, on the largest onshore wind project in Poland. We will explore how the data helps it to work collaboratively with turbine manufacturers; effectively run the technical and commercial management (TCM) of projects with a small in-house team; and boost resilience, which is vital for all companies right now.'
Mashav Energia is an independent power producer that develops, builds and runs wind farms in northern Poland. The firm is controlled by Israel Infrastructure Fund, and its minority shareholders are renewable energy investment fund Helios Energy Investment Fund, CME Holdings, and a group of local green experts called CERAC.
The company was founded in 2010 and, by 2018, it had developed wind farms with total capacity of 60MW. This was largely the result of frequent upheaval in the wind support policies of the Polish government, including from 2012-13 and 2015-17.
Mashav’s fully operational wind farms are the 37.5MW Orla project, which has been operational since 2015 and is made up of 15 Nordex turbines, and the 20MW Kanin project, which has been operational since 2012 and has eight Nordex turbines. The company works with external TCM managers on these smaller schemes.
But it decided to take a different approach on the 220MW Potegowo wind complex, where it started construction on the first phase in 2018. Mashav decided it wanted to keep control of TCM for the project in-house, and use TCM software that would give it an in-depth knowledge of the turbines on the project during commissioning.
As a result, Mashav made the decision to begin working with Greenbyte in May 2019 to manage the five turbines in that first phase and eventually roll out the Greenbyte management platform across all 81 turbines in the complex. Potegowo is due to be fully commissioned by mid-2020 and we are supporting on day-to-day management.
Why is Potegowo significant?
The €290m Potegowo complex has been in development for over a decade, and is split into seven smaller projects in two areas: Potegowo East and Potegowo West.
The seven sections are named after the villages near where they are located.
The development is set to be the largest onshore wind project in Poland, and is one of the first wind farms to be built in Poland since the government reversed the policies that stalled the growth of the Polish wind industry between 2016 and 2018.
Mashav started building the first phase – the five-turbine Bięcino project – in autumn 2018. It was able to do this because the first phase was intended to be built without the government’s financial support. Mashav then gained government support for the rest of the complex in Poland’s wind tender in November 2018.
The company reached financial close on Potegowo on 1st May 2019, marking the start of our involvement in the development. Two months later, in July, it revealed that it would use GE Renewable Energy as turbine supplier for the whole complex, after employing the company’s turbines at Bięcino. GE has a strong track record in Poland and Potegowo is set to take its installed capacity in the country to 800MW.
Finally, the financial success of the scheme is important to the local communities. It is featured in regional development plans and is set to provide tax revenues for local communities, including from annual property fees. It will also remove an estimated 514,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the environment each year.
Our work with Mashav
We spoke to Mashav Energia and found out how the Greenbyte Platform has helped it during commissioning of Potegowo and with its strategic goals. It said there were three main ways that the platform had supported its worth thus far:
- Improving turbine availability and collaboration
- Empowering its lean in-house TCM team
- Boosting business resilience during Covid-19
Improving turbine availability and collaboration
Data makes a difference during commissioning.
The advanced mathematical models and predictive software in the Greenbyte platform can arm independent power producers and smaller developers with insights into what is going on with their machines. This can help in their negotiations with turbine suppliers, and is of particular importance for an owner-operator with no support from a large parent.
For example, Mashav said that using some of the advanced analytics – especially the ‘learned power curve’ – in the Greenbyte platform to monitor turbines during commissioning had helped it to find performance anomalies on the commissioned machines. This is important background information for the turbines that are yet to be installed.
By the end of March 2020, 27 of 81 turbines at Potegowo had been commissioned. Mashav has used the Greenbyte platform during commissioning to ensure that the turbines were achieving availability levels promised by the manufacturer. GE has its own sources of turbine performance data, and Mashav said it needed its own.
This helped Mashav to identify a specific turbine that was under-performing, and then work with GE to make the necessary improvements to get it back on track.
The reason this is vital is that GE offers ‘production-based availability’ on turbines. In simple terms, this means that the reliability of the turbine is assessed based on how much energy it produces compared to how much it should be expected to produce at a given wind speed. This means it is important for all partners to know that the wind speed is being recorded accurately, along with the turbine’s electricity output.
If the turbine records the wind as slower than it actually is then this makes it look like the turbine is performing better than it is. This gives a false impression to the owner-operator. Conversely, if the turbine records the wind as too fast then that makes the machine look inefficient compared to what it should be producing. Accuracy is all.
Robert Wojtyna, wind farm technical manager at Mashav, said that Greenbyte data had given it a head-start identifying some important anomalies.
“We know what is going on with the turbines much before our colleagues from GE, so this is an advantage. We were able to spot some issues and have a meaningful discussion with our excellent partners at GE, so that our collaboration with GE is working even better,” he said.
As a result, Mashav and GE can partner to make modifications that give the most accurate data possible.
Empowering its lean in-house O&M team
Managing wind farms isn’t all about whizzy control centres. Smaller developers and independent power producers (IPPs) can use Greenbyte to keep TCM in-house.
As we said earlier, Mashav outsourced TCM on its projects pre-Potegowo to outside companies. It opted against this approach on Potegowo because it wanted to retain control of its flagship project in-house, and it made sense to set up an TCM team of its own. This is currently made up of one full-time member of staff and a supervisor.
“We are not a big developer,” said Wojtyna. “We do not have a big TCM reporting structure, but we chose Greenbyte as this will be a big project. We want to have full control of this project. We did not want to use an external TCM company for this.”
He added that one concern with external TCM companies is that management of the wind farm – and thus Mashav’s financial returns – would be dependent on individuals that could be changed at short notice. It wanted a team that knew the turbines.
“Our intention is to have long-term relationship with people who know the project at an early stage. Working with an internal team, improves dramatically the long knowledge build up for the project,” he said.
Wojtyna said another benefit of using Greenbyte’s software on a larger scheme is that there is no clear handover point between the construction and TCM teams. The turbines on the first stages are being commissioned and operational before the later ones. Mashav wanted continuity of project management through these phases.
Using a cloud-based data platform also means that Mashav gets the insights that it needs but without the cost and time of setting up and staffing a 24/7 control centre. The Greenbyte platform, and its associated mobile app, means that members of its wider team can log in to check performance and track faults outside of office hours.
“We don’t have anybody sitting in front of a screen and watching turbines 24/7. We are a small team and so we have to optimise our structure, and then we bring in tools that give us the possibilities to maintain this monitoring. This tool helps to make it possible,” he said.
Boosting business resilience during Covid-19
The final big benefit that Mashav identified with the Greenbyte platform is how it has helped with monitoring Potegowo remotely during the growing Covid-19 pandemic, which has restricted both face-to-face contact and day-to-day movements on site.
The reaction to Covid-19 in Poland has been similar to other countries. It declared a ‘state of emergency in late March, and the government moved quickly to enforce its lockdown that includes strict quarantine measures. Wojtyna said that the Greenbyte platform had enabled it to make a seamless transition to remote working.
Wojtyna said: “With the current situation and the limitation in our day-to-day activity and travelling on-site, and working remotely from home, one of the advantages of having Greenbyte technology deployed is that they provide the mobile application to model the whole portfolio and what is happening on site.”
An additional benefit of a remote platform is that it can grow with Mashav as it adds more projects, and potentially other renewables technologies, into its portfolio.
He said: “We want a system that will be open for all turbines and technologies. Greenbyte allows us to integrate pretty much anything, including energy storage.”
As well as supporting resilience now, this will help it to be resilient in future years.
Why does this matter?
This case study shows how advanced analytics and remote access in Greenbyte’s platform can help developers and IPPs of all sizes to ensure turbines are running as well as possible – whatever is happening in the wider world.
That isn’t to say there is no place for external TCM advisories in wind, or renewables more widely. Far from it. But this structure does not work for every company, and our Greenbyte platform can assist those who want to know in-depth what is happening at their projects while keeping control internally. This in-depth knowledge of the projects will have a noticeable impact on operations and profitability over the long term.
Finally, we must mention Covid-19. This is an exceptional event that is taking a huge toll on businesses and societies around the world, and we wish the very best to all of our connections in the industry and their loved ones. This has been a stark reminder of the need for resilience, including in the grid and the companies that power it.
Do you have similar challenges as Mashav? We manage over 30GW of renewable energy projects worldwide, and our predictive analytics help businesses of all sizes to stay ahead of the game by detecting anomalies.
Whatever your business priorities, we’d love to hear from you.