The impact of COVID-19 on the wind sector activities

Due to the situation caused by COVID-19, national blockades in Europe have delayed new projects, but existing wind farms continue to operate. Factory closings have reduced energy demand, increasing the share of wind energy in the generation mix.

Around Europe, wind operators are prioritizing reactive maintenance of wind farms and scheduled preventive maintenance activities have been reduced. This could affect the future performance of wind turbines, experts told New Energy Update.

Location and family responsibilities are also limiting the supply of workers, said Frederick Keil, press officer for BWE, the German Wind Energy Association.

With the remote work at its peak, wind operators with advanced analytics and remote capabilities could have an advantage in the short and medium term.

Safety first

UK health and safety group SafetyOn has released a guide for wind power workers to enable safe work practices during the pandemic. Many of these could continue long after the crisis as a new normality of distancing is established.

Among others, guidelines are collected to limit the number of workers “in the field”, implement work shifts for separate groups of workers, avoid sharing vehicles where adequate distance cannot be guaranteed, avoid visiting service centers as much as possible and equipment stores, collection of tools and materials outdoors, disinfection of the workplace before and after the task, etc …

Stricter guidelines will increase costs, and operators will need to find ways to be more efficient with staff in the workplace.

Spare parts supply

On April 20, the leading provider of Vestas turbines announced a 400 employee layoff by halting technology projects and prioritizing deliveries in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Vestas suspended its financial outlook for 2020 due to disruptions of the coronavirus. Factory closings and travel restrictions have impacted Vestas’ manufacturing, supply chain and installation activities, the company said.

Offshore

Offshore O&M often involves larger teams to reduce boat trips, and this creates greater personnel challenges.

Scheduled maintenance could typically include around four technicians, who work in parallel and extend through the tower, yaw deck, nacelle and other areas.

Clearly, this can be more problematic in the current climate due to social distancing requirements, so I would not be surprised if equipment sizes are temporarily reduced, while the number of days on each turbine may increase accordingly.

Leading offshore operator Orsted has split its equipment on-site to reduce the potential for infection and is allowing as many workers as possible to work from home, the company said March 25.

“Over time, this may affect the availability of our wind farms, but so far we have not seen any Covid-19 related impact on availability,” said.

Long battle

Experts predict that many parts of Europe and the USA they will require blocks of varying severity for months, and a second major COVID-19 spike in the winter would cause more pain.

“The postponement of preventive maintenance could affect the future operation of the plants if the failures are not detected in advance,” Cena said.

The implementation of larger repowering projects would likely reflect the new construction market, where the progress of the project currently depends on regional blockades and supply chain availability, he added.

Excerpt from Neil Ford’s article in New Energy Update (April 2020)

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