Getting connected

Tim McNeilly highlights the importance of efficient electrical installation to successful windfarm development

In his recent hard-hitting documentary, Climate Change: The Facts, David Attenborough discussed the important role that wind farms could play in helping the UK to meet global emissions targets over the coming years.

In 2018, the proportion of UK electricity generated through offshore wind turbines was eight per cent, and ministers have recently set a target of increasing this to a third by 2030. However, with regions such as Scandinavia still leading the way when it comes to securing European investment, how can the UK renewables sector emulate their success and ensure that electrical installations are able to keep up with the demand for new developments?

The Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the UK should adopt a target of ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050 is likely to see attentions turning again to increasing numbers of windfarm developments. As part of its efforts to decarbonise the power generation industry, the UK can learn some important lessons from countries such as Norway, which is rapidly making a transition away from oil and gas-based methods of generation and focusing on renewable technologies. In addition to generating sufficient energy for domestic use, Norway looks set to make green power pay by launching new grid connections with central Europe, to sell production capacity to countries increasing renewable energy in their portfolios.

In the UK, a prevailing resistance to new onshore wind farms has often made it difficult for developers to secure planning permission, forcing efforts to focus on offshore wind projects instead. While in the past, these have often proven too expensive to build without first securing significant subsidies, recent technological developments are now enabling developers to increase production hours and capacity. Innovations in design and engineering are producing larger and more powerful turbines, which are able to generate power for a greater number of homes and are more resistant to external conditions, keeping installation, maintenance and repair costs down. As such, projects near UK coastlines are becoming a more attractive prospect for overseas investors.

Turnkey solutions
In order to ensure that new turbines are connected quickly, to keep up with growing demand for wind farm developments, efficient electrical installation processes will be key. To reduce the risk of overruns and delays, a common-sense approach for developers is to divide project delivery into three main sections; turbines, infrastructure and electrification and maintenance. As well as enabling contractors to focus on their key area of expertise, this approach has the added benefit of improving cost-efficiency across the lifecycle of the project. Choosing an electrical installer with a proven track record across similar developments is also essential to keep projects on track and ensure production is able to begin on time.

Choosing a contractor that also manufactures its own equipment can enable a more joined-up installation approach, helping developers to minimise numbers of deliveries and, as a result, reduce the risk of cost overruns. Using an installer offering Electrical Balance of Plant (EBoP) applications can also help turbine installations to run more smoothly. Covering all stages of electrical installation, from planning and design to execution, these complete turnkey solutions allow investors to connect a number of disparate electrical systems, reducing the time needed for testing and commissioning activity.

Maximise profits
Innovations such as modular substations could also help investors to drive efficiencies as the demand for renewable developments increases over the next few years. As well as optimising the use of available space on development sites, using robust solutions that last for the entire project lifecycle and allow testing to be handled by the main installer can help to avoid the potential disturbance associated with testing in factory conditions.

Pressure is mounting for the UK to reduce emissions and emulate European power generation markets, by making a rapid transition to renewable technologies. With the demand for new wind farms undoubtedly set to climb in the years ahead, technological developments are now making them a more attractive prospect for investors. However, in order to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget, it’s important to take all possible steps to optimise the electrical installation process.

By choosing an electrical installer with a proven track record in connecting wind power developments, and taking advantage of complete turnkey solutions, investors can maximise the profitability of their developments while helping to support the UK’s sustainability drive.

I.C. Electrical Ltd
Tim McNeilly is managing director of I.C. Electrical, part of VEO Group. I.C. Electrical Ltd is an electrical engineering contractor based centrally in the UK. It is capable of providing a complete in-house electrical engineering solution incorporating the design, build and installation of control panels, HV and LV electrical systems, communication and automation systems along with small power and lighting installations.

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