Typical Timeline for a Renewable Energy Project
Your dream energy project is finally coming to fruition. Is it a beautiful wind turbine spinning effortless with the wind? Or maybe it’s a solar farm soaking the sun's energy to provide your building with energy from the sky? The end results of these projects are magnificent pieces of science and technology. However, you may wonder when looking at a completed renewable energy project, how was this thing even built? We’re here to answer all your questions about what it takes to build a renewable energy project.
The Pre-Development stage is meant to identify significant barriers to ultimate project execution prior to significant investment of time and money in the development stage. The goal of this stage is to uncover any fatal flaws with minimal investment of time and money and to confirm and establish project economics and the feasibility of obtaining all necessary agreements, approvals, permits, or contracts from third parties—without contracting or formally applying for them. Pre-Development activities are the beginning of the formal development process.
Once a potential project is found to have strong fundamentals in the development stage, it moves into the development stage. Development, in which the information needed to close a deal is generated, verified and compiled on the basis that the project will move forward. Development refers to the largest commitment of time and money to prepare the project for financing and construction. Large scale projects require developers to secure a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) prior to investing in the development stage.
The goal of pre-development is to uncover any fatal flaws with minimal investment of time and money and to confirm and establish project economics and the feasibility of obtaining all necessary agreements, approvals, permits, or contracts from third parties
All initial screening is complete, and everything is ready to begin your project. Before starting, all applicable approvals must be met, and then the construction is ready to begin. The construction stage includes renewable energy technology itself, access roads and transmission lines. Once installed, a project will go through a brief testing phase to ensure everything is functioning properly.
Depending on the project, developers offer 20-year contracts for projects like wind and solar. During the operational period of the project, developers carry out a number of ongoing activities including maintaining and replacing equipment and keeping the project in proper working order, site maintenance, and maintaining an active presence in the community responding to any concerns or complaints.
An RFP is a document that lists out all the requirements and needs of a project. Companies create an RFP for upcoming projects, as a form of a proposal to potential contractors and agencies. These contractors and agencies then bid to win the contract, based on the requirements of the RFP.
An Expression of Interest (EOI) is useful for organizations or teams that need a little help before they're truly confident they know what they're looking for. An RFI sometimes indicates that the stakeholders are on the fence about purchasing these external services, and they need more details or information before they can truly decide. Because of this, vendors may not put as much effort into providing the information as they would into drafting a proposal.
An Unsolicited Opportunity is when a developer gives a pitch for a renewable energy project to a potential client. These are projects that the developer hopes to secure.
An RFP is a document that lists out all the requirements and needs of a project. Companies create an RFP for upcoming projects, as a form of proposal to potential contractors and agencies.
Choosing the best possible site for your new renewable energy project can have a big impact on the overall cost of the energy it produces. But once you have chosen a broad area or multiple potential sites, how do you narrow it down to a specific site? Here is a list of items that are considered before selecting a suitable site location.
- Noise levels to nearby commercial and residential properties
- Ecological site considerations. (Aquifers, drinking water sources, vulnerable wildlife areas)
- Roads, highways, railways
This step identifies areas with abundant renewable energy resources that are technically developable. The priority of this step is screening out areas that cannot be developed and finding the perfect location that can harness a renewable energy project. Developers may use something called a resource map to show the theoretical resource potential for the technologies considered within each region of interest. Data layers allow for calculation of power density (W/m2) or potential electricity generation per unit of an area over a given period of time (kWh/m2/day) for renewable energy resources under consideration. Solar resource layers ideally consist of direct normal irradiance, diffuse horizontal irradiance, air temperature, and wind speed. Wind resource layers ideally consist of wind speed, wind direction, air pressure, and air temperature.
A resource assessment identifies areas with abundant renewable energy resources that are technically developable. The priority of this step is screening out areas that cannot be developed and finding the perfect location that can harness a renewable energy project
To develop a renewable energy project, developers must obtain legal rights to the land. Unless the property is already owned by the developer, rights can be in the form of a purchase or lease. This is often called a Land Use Agreement. The type of agreement depends on the infrastructure intended for the land, the developer’s business model, and the type of arrangement acceptable to the landowner. The process of securing land rights for renewable energy projects usually occurs early in the development stage and may begin with an option agreement (an exclusive right to conduct research on the renewable resources, property conditions, and energy market until the developer is ready to move forward with project development).
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Environmental factors are a serious concern for all renewable energy developers. An EIA Is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural, and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse. An environmental assessment should be conducted as early as possible in the planning stage of a designated project in order for the proponent to be able to consider the analysis in the proposed plans.
Developers typically lease, option, or purchase land for renewable energy projects from private landowners, First Nations, or municipalities. As they work to secure land, developers often meet with landowners or other members of the community about their projects. These meetings may provide municipalities with the opportunity to engage developers in the early stages of projects. If municipalities become involved early in the process, they will have more opportunities to have their concerns addressed.
Every renewable energy project must interconnect to the grid under “reliability” standards. This means that the project won’t cause the grid to fail due to the project’s exporting power -- or failing to export power. This requires the New Brunswick System Operator (NBSO) approval. Every interconnection study will have the following steps.
- Feasibility Study: Upon application to the NBSO for a Connection Assessment, the NBSO will complete a Feasibility Review. The process is informal and is intended to highlight fundamental design limitations and to determine if a System Impact Study is required.
- System Impact Study: The System Impact Study (SIS) will document the impact of the proposed project on the transmission system and its customers; identify any measures required to mitigate the impact, and determine the need for additions or upgrades to the transmission grid which would lead to a Facilities Study. The SIS addresses both design and operational issues.
- Facilities Study: The Facilities Study identifies the cost of any necessary upgrades that must be made to the transmission system in order to connect the project. The Facilities Study includes any design requirements necessary to mitigate the issues identified in the SIS. The study also outlines the costs that the developer will be responsible for and the scheduled completion date
Financing renewable energy projects depend on various factors and are usually done in the predevelopment stage to determine the costs of the project before development begins. Developers need project and development equity which is usually obtained through grants and loans. Different aspects off the finance section include
- Land for the project
- Design Plans (Engineers)
- Developer’s Team
- Construction, Operations, Maintenance
Equipment can be anything used by companies to develop or maintain a renewable energy project. The equipment will be used by the contractor as they are primarily responsible for the construction phase. The developer and contractors will work together to determine what types of equipment and models that will be used. Here are some examples of equipment that is used for wind and solar projects.
Wind: Primary cranes, road graders, and bulldozers.
Solar: Combiners, inverters, transformers, buried conduits, and onsite collection lines.
Developers need project and development equity which is usually obtained through grants and loans.
Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
Renewable energy project developers usually secure 20-year contract agreements. Throughout the 20 years, developers are responsible for all operation and maintenance costs. Details on the operation and maintenance of the project must include such items as inspection and maintenance schedules along with turbine operation and maintenance for wind projects.
Here is an example of Naveco’s own renewable energy project
About the Author
Gerry is from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and studied at Acadia University graduating with a Certificate of Applied Sciences and Dalhousie University graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering in Environmental Engineering.
At Dalhousie he became interested in the renewable energy industry and upon graduation was part of the Clean Leadership Professional Internship Program with Naveco. His goal is to assist communities transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
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