O&M Services fot the Out-Of-Warranty MarketFri, 02/01/2019 - 12:16
Mexico’s wind power footprint can be traced as far back as 1994, with the inauguration of La Venta I, a 1.5MW wind farm. Fast forward to 2018 and there is now a wind power market ripe for out-of-warranty services in which wind turbines need to continue operating seamlessly for optimal power output. “Mexico’s wind power market is growing at an outstanding pace but it lacks the sufficient local technical expertise to cater to the market’s needs in blade repairs and other O&M services,” says Lourival Mendes, Technical Sales Manager of Composites VCI do Brasil. “We want to service this niche to help accelerate the growth of wind power in Mexico.”
Composites VCI do Brasil set up shop in July 2014. It is the Brazilian branch of Canada-based Composites VCI, which specializes in composite materials for the energy, aeronautics and transport industries. In Brazil, it supplies nacelles to Tier 1 companies such as GE, Siemens GAMESA, ACCIONA and Vestas. “Our company has 15 years’ experience in blade manufacturing and repairs,” Mendes says. “Our Canadian HQ developed its expertise while catering to the manufacturing need for different parts and components related to the aeronautics industry. It transferred all its expertise organically to wind power.”
While the company’s Brazilian subsidiary focuses on manufacturing nacelles, spinners and composite materials like fibers and resins, it has different plans for the Mexican market. “We want to be an ally to wind farm developers, helping to reduce downtime when performing both preventive and corrective maintenance tasks,” says Mendes. The company remains in a prospective phase, gauging the best locations and projects where it can showcase its top-tier technologies for maintenance services. “Composites VCI do Brasil fully
embraced drone use in blade inspection work, reducing the average three days of manual inspection on a single turbine to a single day with a drone,” he says. “It usually takes a truckmounted elevator platform to undertake these tasks.” For small-scale turbines, built on metallic towers, the company also developed a laser that can remove rust from 1m2 in under one minute, which is especially useful for those located close to the sea. To obtain the same results manually would take two hours, he says.
And while there is concern about the MWh+CELs package prices for wind power projects hitting a low US$17.7/MWh+CEL in the auctions, Mendes says O&M services do not obey energy price trends. “Downtime is our primary selling point. Reducing or removing time lapses during which the wind farm does not produce electricity injects competitiveness and bankability across the useful life of the wind farm,” he says. “Our first and foremost concern revolves around continued internal improvements in terms of maintenance procedures. Our work to that end, coupled with the use of new technologies, allowed us to reduce our O&M service pricing by 30 percent.”
Mendes says Mexico is Composites VCI do Brasil’s priority market to further expand the company’s international participation. “Mexico’s wind power market is similar to Brazil’s, with the added advantage of its border with the US,” he says. He adds that local manufacturing is a possibility, given that one big problem regarding wind turbine nacelles is logistics. Mendes believes this would give the company better traction to offer the same portfolio of products and services it provides in Brazil.
As a tentative first step, the company is working to gain a foothold with Enel Green Power’s wind farm portfolio in Mexico. Based on the results of all three long-term electricity auctions, Enel Green Power is looking to install 694MW of wind power capacity in Mexico. “This represents close to 400 wind turbines to be installed,” Mendes estimates. “We can transfer the knowledge and expertise of the Composites VCI do Brasil team of engineers to Mexico’s wind power market, to fill the country’s gap in O&M services for wind power components.”