When It Comes to Large-Scale Renewable Progress, Preparation Is Key

The Renewable Energy World, North America conference sessions began Tuesday afternoon, and the Large Scale Renewables Track emphasized lessons learned from which every technology can benefit. The session included insights from the geothermal, wind and bioenergy fields, and each panelist offered insights that encompassed topics ranging from project siting to stakeholder communications to on-site safety, which all boiled down to one major lesson: preparation.

Steve Hummel of Exergy kicked off the educational rundown with vital information on the Turkish geothermal market. Turkey forecasts 6 to 8 percent annual energy demand growth until 2020, which equates to about 50,000 MW. In order to meet this demand, its government announced in 2011 that it would launch 120 new energy proects, with a specific focus on geothermal. As one of the more promising geothermal regions today, Turkey has several factors that lend to its industry success, according to Hummel.

First, Turkey has an excellent feed-in tariff (FIT) program at about $0.10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) with a local content bonus of $0.07 to $0.30 per kWh. “This has led companies to consider developing their own manufacturing operation in the country itself to take advantage of this FIT program,” said Hummel. 

Turkey is also lucky enough to house excellent, predictable geothermal resources — a far cry from the evasive sources that plague the United States. These reliable sources put much less risk on projects overall, which leads to lower costs and a much more desirable financial outlook, explained Hummel.

Turkey began developing its easy resources — those that are 250 degrees Celsius or above — decades ago. These hotter resources only require flash steam plants, where a hot reservoir brought up to the surface into a tank, where it flashes into steam and spins a turbine to create power. Once these hot reservoirs were exploited, developers began going after lower-temperature resources, which require binary solutions. In a binary cycle power plant, resources around 160 degrees Celsius run adjacent to a working fluid that then creates steam to run a turbine.

A major lesson learned working in Turkey, explained Hummel, is due dilligence. “In order to succeed in foreign business like Turkey, companies need to do their homework about local incentives and business practices. Preparation is key before moving into a new business environment.”

William Kaufman of Hoosier Energy seconded this lesson during the overview of his experience redeveloping a landfill gas plant. The Livington Landfill Renewable Energy Station was abandoned in 2006 when its previous owners became buried in legal issues. “It was very sudden,” said Kaufman, “we walked into the office in 2010 and there was still coffee in the coffeepot.” What got them through the entire project was simple: preparation.

While a redevelopment project may seem easier than starting from scratch — especially since the Livington project was already connected to the grid, has a validated fuel supply, and existing air permits — the developers found that there were many issues hiding beneath the surface. For example, several gas lines were eroded, its control system was obsolete, and the utility interconnection required an upgrade. “Just because you have a nice old car in the barn doesn’t mean you can just take it out and drive,” said Kauffman. “We had a lot of work to do.”

What made the 15.5-MW project a success was preparation, said Kaufman. “Turn over as many rocks as possible; expect to find surprises; budget; manage stakeholder expectations early – informed stakeholders are happy stakeholders,” he said. “You are also going to miss things during the assessment process, so including some flow in your schedule is incredibly valuable.”

Robert Healy of Burns and McDonnell described his experience on the Tucannon River Wind Farm, where he focused on team preparations from the start of construction to completion. “You need to maintain constant conversations with teams from all aspect of the project, have face-to-face review meetings, delegate compliance, reinforce and enforce safety.” He emphasized envisioning progress and success from the start will lead to positive outcomes. 

“Don’t let this scare you away because it is a very rewarding process,” said Kaufman. “But thankfully it is behind me and not in front of me.”

Lead image: Checklist via Shutterstock

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