The government's decision to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms will force the need for greater innovation across the wind industry, notably when it comes to developing solutions that can reduce operating costs. In light of this, John Coultate, Head of Condition Monitoring and EU Sales at Romax Technology, states that if this is to be achieved improvements and investment into operations & maintenance (O&M) techniques and solutions is going to be critical.
Last week, UK Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd confirmed to business leaders that the Conservative government would uphold its promise to shift subsides from onshore wind to other renewable energy technologies, announcing that new onshore wind farms would be excluded from the subsidy scheme from 1st April 2016, a year earlier than expected.
The fallout from this has created widespread debate, notably by the government's reluctance to name the types of technologies it plans to invest in. Coultate believes that the new policy is out of sync with the international community's drive towards greater investment into renewable energy, and in light of this it's imperative they don't lose sight of the key objectives at hand:
"Despite the government's decision to remove subsidies for onshore wind farms, the UK must press ahead and continue to cement its position as a global leader when it comes to renewable energy and in order to do this effectively it must be prepared to play to its strengths, notably within offshore wind energy.
"Currently, the investment and financing markets within wind energy are incredibly active, and as a result of this the UK has been able to attract significant investment both domestically and internationally when it comes to developing, building and operating wind power sites - additionally, this has also opened up huge potential for 'green collar' jobs.
"Relatively speaking, the wind energy sector is very new and expertise is hard to find. By investing in the industry here in the UK, not only will we be able to retain skilled and talented professionals, we will also be able to attract the best and brightest within the wind energy space. In doing so, this will go a huge way to not only achieving innovation targets but also benefiting from significant cost reductions, even in light of the government's decision to end subsides.
"Central to achieving this will be improvements made in the field of O&M. Presently, over 75 per cent of expenditure across wind farms, both on and offshore, are accountable to O&M. The result of this means current wind farm site managers and asset managers are being placed under extreme pressures to reduce operating costs. One possible solution is to develop predictive maintenance strategies to minimise the risk and potential impact of turbine failure and downtime. If carried out effectively, new technologies can offer operators longer maintenance lead times, meaning that they can shift from a reactive to a proactive strategy, enabling more effective planning for any major maintenance events, generating significant cost savings.
Coultate concluded: "Ultimately, the government's decision to end subsidies for onshore wind, should not detract from the UK's commitment to reducing carbon emissions, and as part of this, both on and offshore wind energy will play an integral role. Investment in R&D is central within this process and will ensure that the wind industry is maximising its opportunity."