What to expect in wind power

Some thoughts about where the wind industry is headed midway through 2014

Making predictions is a dangerous career choice. Do it right and you get to be a “visionary.”
Do it wrong, and … well, how would you describe Time Magazine’s 1968 prediction that “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” Someone should tell that to Jeff Bezos, since Amazon alone did $75 billion in sales in 2013.

Still, I am going to go out on a limb and make some predictions about what’s going to happen in the wind power business here in North America. I don’t intend to go very far out on the limb, though. From where I sit as ABB’s Director of North America Business Development, I am fortunate to spend time with many of the biggest players in this market. I also get to work with some of the top experts, including my co-workers at ABB. Having those kinds of resources should help me offer some fairly reliable assessments of wind market trends.

Some of the topics I’ve been talking with those experts about include:

Planning a wind farm: Faulty planning and false steps can wreak havoc on your new installations. The penalties for not coming online as promised are stiff, and failing to meet production predictions can pummel your profitability models. But smart farm developers are taking steps to reduce uncertainty and build solid plans for profitable farms.

Collecting power and connecting to the grid: You need to get all that power you’ve generated to the folks who need it, and that means melting the glacier of related rules and regulations. Fortunately, there are ways that developers can simplify code compliance and ensure grid connections with minimal hassles.

Microgrid: Moving diesel by barge to remote areas is a primitive way to fuel power generation assets. That’s why wind represents such a tremendous opportunity in these areas. But these energy islands may represent unfamiliar territory. Many developers, though, are successfully creating or connecting to these microgrids.

Service: More turbines turning mean more turbines needing maintenance. Solving a major turbine service problem comes with an invoice that has five zeroes after the first number. That’s why operators are eager to learn about the latest technology and processes to keep their turbines turning while minimizing maintenance costs.

No one knows exactly what’s coming in 2014, but we are looking at as much 13 GW coming on line through end of 2015. Scheduling long lead time items and working with suppliers early on will ensure your projects stay on track. I hope my initial observations spark some ideas and interest in knowing more about these topics. In the continuing series of blog posts, I want to dig into these areas a little more, and provide information to help create and implement plans to successfully – and profitably – bring these new wind generation resources online.  

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About the author

Dennis Mckinley

Hi, I'm Dennis Mckinley, head of Wind Power for ABB North America. ABB provides a lot of pieces and parts into the wind industry. My job is to present all ABB’s wind solutions to you as one, comprehensive package. I've been with ABB for nearly 3 decades. My background is in engineering from Franklin University and Rochester Institute of Technology.
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