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The big green explosion: a new standard in wind farm maintenance.

An all-new global wind farm Technical Specification is being proposed to The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) - IEC61400-28, Through life management and life extension of wind farms. It introduces the concept of independent verification of the strategies for equipment maintenance throughout the entire life-cycle of a wind farm.

The initiative is being supported by Lloyd's Register (LR), a leading global provider of engineering and technology-centric professional services, and a supporter of IEC and its Technical Standards.

If this latest IEC Technical Specification is approved by the IEC Committee, a key objective will be to establish independent guidance on best practices for wind farm operations. Throughout a typical life-cycle of a wind farm, it is anticipated that qualitative and quantitative information would be collated and assessed to improve decisions on equipment performance, farm operation and maintenance.

LR's Principal Engineer for Renewables O&M, Dr Mark Spring, who drafted the new work item for the IEC proposal, says: "This is a really important step forward for wind farm management and an opportunity for cross-industry collaboration drawing on the knowledge and experience of a broad range of stakeholders. It's clear that increasing standardisation has already had a dramatic impact on reducing uncertainty for all wind farm stakeholders and helping to reduce the cost of electricity generated from wind. The new IEC Technical Specification will build on that."

The aim is to provide impartial and independent assistance to all wind farm stakeholders as they weigh up decisions about retrofitting, re-powering or life extension. These insights can be gained from a thorough assessment of the condition of all operating systems in a wind farm as the plant ages.

Al Mackinnon, Chair of the British Standards Institute's UK shadow committee, PEL-88, says: "This proposal has captured the imagination more than any other subject and in my opinion it's the most significant initiative taken up by TC-88 in the last 10 years. It will be particularly important in the UK, where we have a number of aging wind farms for which stakeholders will already be scrutinising the options for re-powering, life extension, retrofitting or decommissioning - both onshore and offshore.

"In the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, owners and operators of wind farms have a lot of experience of applying formal methods to assess the condition of their assets with a view to life extension but there is a lot of variability in the details of the guidance from commercial consultancies or required by regulatory authorities, banks or insurers."

The proposed Technical Specification will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the IEC's Technical Committee, TC-88 in Glasgow in April.

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