Collect and Connect

Interconnection is a highly specialized task. Wind developers who go it alone risk significant cost setbacks.

“Here’s the 10 MW of power I told you about. Where do you want me to put it?”

A surprising number of wind farm developers take something like that approach when it comes to connecting to the grid. They believe the main interaction with the utility is giving them a heads up regarding when the farm will begin providing power. That’s an important detail, but there are many others to address long before the cutover occurs.

The utility won’t own the wind farm substation, but they will have a tremendous say regarding its design and operation. Developers need to begin coordinating with the utility very early in the design process. Interconnecting is a highly technical and specialized area with detailed and often long review cycles. Involving the utility as early as initial project discussions will help minimize design changes and resulting project delays, and eliminate the resulting added costs.

Simply identifying the right technical contacts at a utility can be a challenge. If you’ve called a utility as a customer seeking help, you know it can be hard to get to the right person on the phone. Imagine how much harder it is to identify and reach the multiple, qualified technical resources needed to coordinate a wind farm interconnect.

The information you need from the utility includes specs for the substation equipment. ABB recently worked on a renewable energy project where the customer wanted to avoid the added expense of third-party consulting on substation equipment selection. As the developer spec’ed the project, they changed vendors several times but failed to consider the impact of those equipment changes on the utility. As a result, they had to rework their load flow study multiple times at a cost of nearly $250,000.

In another case, a developer lacked the expertise to properly size the power transformer and specify the right accessories. When problems were later identified, the developer was hit with an additional $1 million cost to get the transformer properly equipped.

Coordinating with utilities, as well as other permitting agencies and organizations, is a highly specialized area. Some developers work on enough projects to develop in-house experts, but that’s not typically the case. Considering the potential delays and costs from a misstep, relying on a third party with extensive experience in this area is a smart spend.

You can complete your project in record time and well under budget, but all of those shiny new turbines can’t earn a dollar unless you’ve properly coordinated connections with the utility. To get that power to customers and start seeing an ROI on your development, be sure you’ve identified a competent partner to help guide your interactions with utilities and other permitting agencies.

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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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