May 31, 2020 — Customer Stories
Terre et Lac looks to Greenbyte to help it support French investment giants
Using the right data isn’t just important for building smart O&M plans. It’s important for building trust with clients too. We spoke to French asset manager Terre et Lac about how it uses data to manage a diverse portfolio for major investors.
Director of Marketing, Greenbyte
“In truth, control centres are clearly just marketing things.”
Luc Vuchot, asset management director at French firm Terre et Lac, is passionate about asset management. He is currently holding forth on the merits, or not, of control centres.
“Okay, it’s nice to have a room with huge screens et cetera,” he elaborates. “But what I’ve seen from my previous experience on the EPC side, or at utilities, is that most of the time control centres are bullshit. It’s a showcase for customers but, at the end, a control centre is just a room where supervisors are working. This supervision can be done remotely, at home. It does not offer other capabilities in our industry.”
We caught up with Vuchot to discuss Terre et Lac’s approach to asset management and data at wind farms. This includes how the company uses the Greenbyte platform to support clients including French investment giants Mirova and Rive.
Terre et Lac currently manages 250MW of wind farms for its clients – and without a physical control centre in sight.
Pierre-Emmanuel Martin and Christopher Bret set up Terre et Lac in 2012. Before this, they had developed 500MW of wind farms, 75MW of solar and 15MW of hydro for several IPP and utilities. Their goal was to use this expertise to support clients in the sector as an advisory, but soon after this they moved into development as well.
One of its most famous clients was LANGA Group. Terre et Lac worked with LANGA from 2013 on a ‘full mandate’ basis, which meant that it developed and constructed LANGA’s full wind portfolio. LANGA had 39MW operating and more than 400MW at different stages of development when the company was acquired by utility giant Engie in mid-2018.
The focus on development also made Terre et Lac’s move into asset management five years ago a natural step. The company now has 21 staff overall, including a lean “three-and-a-half” people in the asset management team led by Vuchot.
He explains that these asset management experts often become integrated into customers’ teams:
“We are used to working with very large mandates, and most of the time companies are working with us as if we were integrated into their company directly,” he says.
Terre et Lac usually holds the presidency of the special purpose vehicles (SPV) for the schemes it manages. This means it provides data to clients about how projects are operating, but that it is ultimately responsible for making decisions about how to run them on behalf of its clients. This requires clients to trust its decision-making.
That’s where Greenbyte comes in. While Terre et Lac doesn’t maintain the turbines itself, it needs a detailed understanding of how they are operating. It added turbine condition monitoring (TCM) using the Greenbyte Platform to its services 18 months ago at the request of a client.
“A year and a half ago, one of our customers asked us to internalise TCM of some of their portfolio for two main reasons,” he says. “The first is that the customer was not satisfied with another TCM provider, but the main reason is that we are working with tailor-made situations, so we really address our services to the customer need.”
The fact that Terre et Lac is president of most of the project SPVs, and its staff are closely aligned with its client teams, adds additional responsibility for the company.
“The expectation for us is to act more deeply and, because we are president of the SPV, this shows the customers have very strong confidence in our technical ability and our moral approach. They give us carte blanche to manage the project.”
This means that the company needs a data platform that gives confidence to both its own experts and those of its clients. Terre et Lac uses the data to make decisions on operations and then work with manufacturers; and its clients use the data to check on investment performance and report to final investors and banks.
“As a TCM provider we of course need a supervision platform. As president, we rely on reports by the turbine manufacturer and the report by the TCM provider – and, as TCM provider, we of course need a supervision platform,” he says. Good data is key.
Big name insights
Vuchot joined Terre et Lac two years ago after a career that has so far taken him to renewables firms Fonroche, Exosun and Gensun. His team now is far smaller than in his previous role – “Now I manage two and a half guys instead of 50” – but he says a smaller team of experienced individuals helps it gain the trust of its clients.
It is currently exclusively asset managing wind farms, and he says that Greenbyte’s long experience in the wind sector was an important factor in choosing the platform for TCM:
“The part that was crucial for us is that the platform is already running with Nordex, Enercon, Vestas – all the big names – and the fact they should be able to integrate a wind farm into the supervision platform quite easily,” he says.
Terre et Lac does also have experience in the solar sector, but it recently acted for a client on the disposal of a 60MW portfolio of solar farms.
Vuchot says the company uses Greenbyte data for two equally important reasons.
First, day-to-day asset management. It uses turbine performance data to remotely monitor their status and performance, which enables it to highlight issues that need to be fixed by the turbine manufacturer. The information also gives Terre et Lac oversight of the responsiveness and efficiency of the technicians.
This helps once work has been carried out: “It’s useful to double-check maintenance works because usually in the wind industry you have work that is performed by the manufacturer,” he says. It helps Terre et Lac to have a source of data on how the turbines are performing that is independent of the manufacturers’ own data.
Second, the company uses the data in the Greenbyte Platform to produce reports for its client and its own teams about how projects are performing: “The client will benefit from the platform indirectly, but the day-to-day work with the platform remain at the Terre et Lac side,” he says.
Vuchot says remote monitoring means it can manage a portfolio of projects across France: “Even when we do TCM, we do not need to be so close to the projects. We need to make regular visits, but we can work for plants everywhere in France. It’s not a big deal. The important thing is to subcontract the visits to somebody which you can rely on,” he explains.
That enables the experienced members of its team to keep making good decisions for the companies that trust it. And it’s the quality of the decisions that matter most, not where you make them.