Quality Assurance for Renewable Energy Projects

Utility Practice & Experience

More of the world is moving rapidly toward ambitious renewable energy goals. Malaysia, for example, has a Renewable Energy (RE) target of 40% share of total installed capacity by 2035. To achieve this goal, approximately 9546 MW of reliable RE projects will need to be commissioned during the period between 2020 and 2035. This process will also require ensuring quality and efficient execution of RE projects while complying with all applicable standards and regulations. A systematic quality assurance process will therefore be needed throughout the development phases of these projects.

QA for RE projects can be much different from that applying to conventional power plants or other civil projects. This is due mainly to the many uncertainties involved, including the intermittent nature of RE and available resources as well as possibly changing government policies including regulation and interconnection standards. Similarly, the advanced technologies involved require new skills, consultation and analysis.

Fig. 1 illustrates the general elements and stakeholders involved in a Quality Management System. Looking at quality management as a whole, QA is a practice to provide confidence to all stakeholders, internally to management and externally to customers, government agencies, regulators, certifiers and third parties. Confidence in this regard includes quality establishment in products (goods and services) and functional processes, obtaining economic and profitable solutions and promoting understanding and co-operation between individuals, companies and nations

Fig. 1: Processes and stakeholders involved in a Quality Management System.

Fig. 2 shows the hierarchy in the process in total quality management. It is clear that QA covers more elements of project deployment when compared to Quality Control and Inspection. The ISO 9000 series, for example, is the most popular set of QA standards. These standards attempt to build-in quality by ensuring conformity requirements to be specified during design, development, installation and service.

Fig. 2: Evolution of the Quality Management System.

RE project development can be categorized into three main phases: pre-development, construction and operation. The first stage of RE project development then consists of 3 crucial steps.

The initial step is identifying the potential project through data collection and opportunity assessment. With respect to RE projects, new government policy or initiatives can be the main drivers. For example, a new Large Scale Solar (LSS) program in Malaysia was an attractive opportunity for a profitable RE project. Here, the project developer had to produce a clear conceptual plan that included not only the strong motivation but also the key factors in the project’s success.

A second step in the pre-development phase is identifying project sensitivities including ownership and business structure, stakeholder roles and permitting considerations. The next step during the pre-development phase is refinement, where all decisions and plans made in previous steps are finalized. Then, the completed project proposal/ tender document is submitted for bidding.

The final phase in RE project development is Operation and Maintenance. In this phase, the operation of RE project in terms of energy yield and economic profit are constantly monitored, analyzed and compared with the strategic energy and business plans. Maintenance activities for the project’s assets are conducted whenever any outage or failure occurs.

While phases in RE project development are similar to that in any general construction project, an RE project deals with new technologies, resources uncertainties and evolving policies/standards and regulations. QA at each stage of a project’s development is therefore essential to ensure quality of the project at a specified level, mitigating risk and supporting the business goals.

Attend the 2022 INMR WORLD CONGRESS in Berlin, where Ir. Ts. Dr. Wan Syakirah Wan Abdullah, Head of Business Assessment & Engineering at TNB Renewables in Malaysia will deliver a presentation that can be serve as a valuable guideline to all stakeholders in assuring the quality of RE project development.