Uncovering opportunities in Ontario’s wind sector: an OEM’s perspective

The provincial government’s decision to suspend all new wind farm development until further notice dealt Ontario’s wind industry a major blow. At a recent AC883 event we gathered wind industry executives together to discuss the effect the ruling has on their business. What we found is that there are still a number of opportunities for suppliers and manufacturers to sell their products in Ontario. Here are a few stories that showcase these opportunities in a better light.

  1. Performance optimization. We heard from a wind operator who was frustrated by a significant gap between the actual and optimal performance of his turbines. As we all know, turbine performance can be affected by a variety of factors, not the least of which is the quality of the wind itself. What if there is a better way to read the wind speed before it reached the turbines so they could adjust accordingly? We suggested using a LiDAR system (instead of a traditional sensor) that sits on top of the turbine that reads direction and speed, enabling the turbine to more accurately predict these factors. If you have the opportunity to read the wind sooner, you can optimize your annual energy production up to by 4%. The operator is now testing 5 LiDAR systems as part of a pilot project.
  1. Repairs and maintenance. Another operator spoke to us about the annoyance of having to service and maintain the blades themselves. If you want to service a particular blade, you often have difficulties to get access, so depending of the repair you would have to remove the entire rotor and do repairs and maintenance on the ground terra firma. (Think about what kind of equipment that process requires!) No wonder this operator was extremely interested in bladeguide access equipment that can do a single blade repair without having to remove the blade from the rotor, and that can work in pretty rough weather conditions.
  1. Service contracts. In Europe operators usually have contracts with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to service turbines. These contracts are typically ten years or so, but most of these turbines have a longer lifespan than ten years. In North America the market is slightly different, as many owners either self perform or use ISP after the warranty period. Over the next couple of years we are quietly approaching a transition period where a number of turbines are in the last year of their warranties, and when it runs out operators are going to have to purchase new parts independently. Another question here is whether there will be enough product in the market to support the expected increase in demand. One operator we spoke to purchased a stock of gearboxes this year because he’s anticipating prices to increase in the next few years as demand skyrockets, and it is cheaper to have them in stock now rather than buying them later.

These are just a few examples of the opportunities that we see developing in Ontario. As they illustrate, it is still a vibrant market despite the ruling. There will be more to come. AC883 can help to identify these opportunities and position your company to take advantage of them. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Wind Farm in Bruce Peninsula, Ontario (Credit: windenergy.ca)

Wind Farm in Bruce Peninsula, Ontario (Credit: windenergy.ca)

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