Wind farm construction appears straightforward. A concrete foundation is constructed and wind turbines, made offsite, are brought to the location and installed. Wires are placed in channels underground and used to connect the individual turbines together. Once complete, the wind farm starts producing electricity.
Unfortunately, it is not always as simple as it appears.
Weather conditions and supply issues are the primary causes of delays in wind farm construction. Both issues can lead to costly downtime and exposure to liquidated damages of tens of thousands of pounds per day.
As the world starts to set more ambitious renewable and net zero targets, wind farms will only grow in popularity. Efficient construction is key to keeping up with demand.
Labour and supply issues
Ensuring the wind turbines and electrical equipment are on site when needed can be challenging. Wind turbine suppliers have long lead times of around a year, and delivery dates are commonly a ‘best guess’ at the time of purchase.
This problem also extends to workforce planning. With many project sites in remote and rural locations, including on coastlines and out at sea, it can be hard to find the right people because of the small population living near those areas.
As a result, project managers can struggle to plan, with many moving parts needing to be coordinated at one time, each reliant on the other.
The remoteness of these sites also means that weather can cause havoc during the construction phase too.
For offshore developments, all components must be pre-made on land before being put on a barge and transported to a site. Changing tides and adverse sea conditions can negatively impact both the delivery of the components and the installation.
Onshore, poor weather may delay the concrete pour for the foundations, or even increase the setting times. Wet conditions can make it difficult to move cranes between turbines or run electrical wires in flooded trenches.
Whatever the specific impact, the weather can significantly complicate and alter project schedules, with one delay having a knock-on effect on everything else. Now, technology has the answer.
Benefits of AI
Using artificial intelligence (AI), the project team can test different construction schedules to find the most efficient way to use labour, machinery, and materials. Project managers can use AI to create schedules, either from scratch or by incorporating information from prior schedules, to come up with the most effective solution.
This planning allows project managers to test what happens if they adjust certain variables, like adding additional cranes, delays due to weather or having a limited workforce. Because this can be done proactively, solutions can be found before issues even arise, minimising risk and downtime.
ALICE Technologies is one such tool. It is the world’s first AI-powered construction simulation platform. It works by users uploading a 3D model or logic diagram for their project before adding information relating to labour, materials, equipment, and construction methodology. In ALICE, this information is combined in what are called ‘recipes’, and ALICE uses this information to create multiple scheduling options.
By adding various constraints, including specific acceleration options or potential delays, owners can test different scenarios to see how they will influence the project delivery date and costs. Frank Fosberg at ALICE Technologies, explains: “ALICE enables wind farm constructors to proactively analyse numerous different strategies, including labour and equipment usage and construction sequencing.
“AI can also support during the design planning stages of wind farms. ALICE can be used to optimise designs and yard layouts by analysing different turbine arrangements and cable routes, to make the construction and operation process as streamlined as possible.
“ALICE can test the impact of expected or experienced procurement delays. ALICE is parametric, so it will automatically adjust project schedules to help mitigate the impact of delays and give project managers the best chance of finishing their projects on time.”
The benefit of all this work is that the recipes, optimum schedules and agreed solutions can be replicated across the whole wind farm and taken forward for use on the construction of future sites. With many projects sharing similar approaches, ALICE helps constructors to build consistently, saving them time and money.
For more news and technical articles from the global renewable industry, read the latest issue of Energy Global magazine.
The Summer 2023 issue of Energy Global hosts an array of technical articles focusing on alternative fuels, battery storage solutions, solar optimisation, and more. This issue also features a regional report on the recent developments in the European renewables market.
Read the article online at: https://www.energyglobal.com/special-reports/11092023/putting-the-wind-back-into-the-sails-of-wind-farm-construction/
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