This article was published in the NewStatesman Energy Policy Supplement in November 2015:


Strategy is as important as technology in wind power, says Brent van der Merwe, head of asset management at Renewable Strategy.

Just a decade ago, the low carbon industry was the Cinderella of energy production. Since then, global investments in the sector have blossomed dramatically, with renewable energy leading the way.

In Europe, the number of offshore wind turbines grew 500 per cent between 2008 and 2013 and the previous five-year period. Now other parts of the world are looking to follow Europe's leadership.

Renewable Strategy Limited (RSL), an advisory firm with an emphasis on strategic asset management, systematics and analytics, is at the cutting edge of supporting both on and offshore wind industries. RSL consultants optimise the asset management process from its inception to that all-important lifetime return.

RSL's proven mastery of the challenging conditions of generating electricity at sea has enabled asset management leadership in other sectors. Two offshore wind farms already use RSL's tried and tested Maintenance Planning System as their sole asset management tool. With a single wind turbine costing roughly a hundred times the price of an average family car, informed and systematic service management is a must, and big players in the industry are currently making the switch to RSL for this reason.

Very few wind-farm owners know exactly how well their assets are faring. This lucky handful sleeps well at night, safe in the knowledge that operation and maintenance is optimised not just for cost saving but also maximum revenue for the whole lifecycle. RSL estimates that the O&M activities of the remaining 95 per cent of wind farms around the globe are not striking a good deal on pro-active maintenance. There is consequently substantial production loss in making good, and lifetime return on investments suffers similarly. If strong yield production on the back half of the turbine life is important, then simply maintaining the status quo is not an option.

O&M Strategy

Elias Dencker, the director of RSL, believes that the solution lies in integrating a robust O&M strategy at owner level with proactive planning systems at operator level, supported by running parallel trends and analytics. This can be difficult if control of these elements is lost to OEM. Owner-operators are heavily reliant on the supply chain, and trust is key; blind trust however should have no place at the table.

Planning and prioritising for maintenance in the long term is what enables windfarm owners and operators to maximise output proactively. Using the original equipment manufacturer can make a big difference to how a turbine's servicing schedule is managed. Without intelligent monitoring, OEMs can effectively lock themselves into the chain where the owner neither controls nor fully understands the impacts of the process and its impacts on production yield and returns.


The haemorrhaging of spares and unscheduled stoppages, rarely foretold by OEM, is a direct result of reactive asset management philosophy causing the life of the asset to be halved in some cases, with an obvious adverse impact on the investment. Proactive and insightful analytics confronts the asset downside risks through systematic and informative management tools providing management with the opportunity to make active decisions with regards to investment returns.

Planning systems

A robust, integrated, computerised operational planning tool offers flexibility in the face of unscheduled events. Proactive, analytical trend identification, alarms and failure prediction can dramatically reduce costs, unplanned downtime and revenue loss. Systematised oversight of plant assets also limits the likelihood of suppliers causing chaos through ad hoc servicing and repairs, putting out one fire with short term solutions that kindle a subsequent fire.

Off-the-shelf planning tools lack the built-in insights and algorithms required to be useful. RSL offers these bespoke tools to match the needs of operators, tying them in with their other systems, providing a strategic asset management advantage in the process.

For further information about RSL management tools, visit

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