Every Megawatt Counts

April 11, 2024

Energy generation is always an efficiency challenge. Engineers around the world dedicate their careers to exploring ways to optimize the output of every piece of equipment in the generation process. 

In 2019, Pattern Energy launched the Every Megawatt Counts program. The goal of the program is to explore strategies to increase the efficiency of every megawatt generated by our wind facilities.

“The objective of the program is to improve annual production through a campaign to raise awareness, improve processes, and promote innovation,” says Ryan Pierce, Pattern Energy’s vice president of field operations.

“In practical terms, the intent of Every Megawatt Counts is to extract the full value and performance out of each and every asset we have,” he says. “The leaseholders who have wind turbines on their land get paid partly based on the amount of energy the turbines produce. Generating more megawatts means more lease revenue.”

Pushing technology to its limits

Modern wind turbines are complex machines. When a wind facility is built, developers select turbines that are already ideal for the wind and weather conditions at the site. To squeeze the last ounce of energy from each machine requires more than just turning a few knobs. 

The process of optimizing each turbine’s output must take a huge number of variables into consideration. Over the course of operations, monitoring equipment records vast amounts of data. Each tower may perform slightly differently. 

To tune each of them, engineers must examine details such as how the machine performs in conditions like extreme cold or unusually high winds. They also need to carefully analyze the turbine’s components to verify they are optimally configured. 

For example, each turbine blade must be precisely aligned to achieve maximum output. 

“It’s a continuous improvement effort,” says Pierce. “We want to get the full use out of our equipment, and there’s a lot involved.”

Optimizing a wind facility involves analyzing the question from numerous angles. How the site performs is only part of the puzzle. Other considerations must include how the facility is interconnected and managed, meteorology, and much more.

Storms present a distinct optimization challenge. Wind facilities have a radar to detect incoming storms. When lightning strikes within a certain distance of a wind facility, facility managers may need to reduce the speed of turbines or shut them down altogether. In this case, the optimization focus is not on the turbines themselves, but on how weather is detected and how that data influences management decisions.

“The more accurate meteorological readings a site can have,” says Pierce, “the better they can be at managing outages, and keeping the turbines online.”

Awareness, Processes, and Innovation

“To accomplish these goals, we created professional and engineering workflow processes,” says Pierce, “and it allows us to continuously identify availability and performance issues, and then follow through with the generation of actionable items to follow up on each month.”

This also applies to choosing a site to locate a wind facility. “We have the best people in the business, and we’re proud of our team’s expertise,” says Pierce.

The team’s expertise is part of why Every Megawatt Counts is successful. They ensure reliable technology is chosen for sites, anticipate potential challenges, and optimal layouts to take maximum advantage of the site’s features.

“This isn’t a one time thing,” Pierce says. “We are going to continue to institute best practices, capitalize on innovation, and ensure everything we do provides maximum value.  We’re proud of our results.”