One simple strategy can help developers streamline load bank testing and save time and money.
Grid emulation is the critical step that stands between a solar or wind farm developer and the production tax credits it needs to stay in business. In short, grid emulation replicates the grid using load banks in order to validate the renewable energy system’s performance and prove to the utility that the system functions as promised. The faster the load bank testing goes, the sooner the developer can meet qualifying deadlines for those tax credits.
When it’s time to move from construction and pre-commissioning to testing and validation, the last thing you want is any holdups. One simple strategy can help accelerate the schedule: Use the same partner for load bank testing that you used for construction and pre-commissioning.
Many developers switch partners for load bank testing, but bringing in a new equipment vendor to provide load banks for grid emulation can slow down the works. The new vendor will spend time (theirs) and money (yours) getting up to speed on everything from the layout of the installation and any special conditions of the site to the systems and processes used to document the work being done.
In addition, it’s harder for an engineer who’s unfamiliar with the system to spec the temporary equipment needed. Undersized equipment lengthens the time it takes to emulate the grid and commission the project. Oversized equipment adds unnecessary expense to the job.
From a logistical and financial standpoint, it often makes sense to stick with the equipment provider you’ve relied on from the start of construction. United Rentals, for example, brings the expertise and equipment needed to effectively partner with solar and wind farm developers from the first shovel of dirt to project commissioning.
“It's a natural extension of our presence on the jobsite in our relationship with the stakeholders to continue through to the last piece of the job,” noted Eric Jarvis, power and HVAC regional product development manager at United Rentals. He likened the construction, pre-commissioning and testing of a renewable energy installation to building a house.
“You build a house with a builder, but would you hire a different contractor to install the windows? Probably not,” said Jarvis.
Faster mobilization on the vendor’s part may be reflected in lower pricing. Another bonus: When the vendor’s electrical engineers and temporary equipment engineers are familiar with the system from the outset, they can quickly identify any potential problems that arise during pre-commissioning. And they can help the developer troubleshoot them so that load bank testing goes without a hitch.
Just as NASA engineers work toward all-important milestones such as rocket booster separation or spacecraft landing, renewable energy developers work toward the pivotal moment when the farm starts providing energy to the grid. Grid emulation with load banks is the final necessary step in a complex, years-long process, and a trusted partner can help you cover that last mile faster.
Successful grid emulation requires knowledge and experience and you should always consult with an expert regarding the specific circumstances, applicable rules and regulations related to your site and to your situation.