Project Controls for Offshore Wind Power Connection

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Wind power is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy technologies thanks to global efforts to combat climate change. Wind is naturally occurring and free, offering a clean energy source at a relatively low cost. While growing, wind power currently represents less than nine percent of France’s electricity. The French government has pledged to double wind energy capacity, both on and offshore, as they reduce their reliance on nuclear power to meet energy demand.

Three major deterrents in wind power generation are the consistent supply of wind, noise pollution and visual pollution. Because ocean winds are stronger and more regular than those on land, offshore wind farms can capture large amounts of clean, renewable energy. While offshore wind currently only represents 5% of the global wind capacity, there is huge potential for growth in this sector.

Watch our video interview with GE Renewable Energy, who M|P also partners with to support the construction of 80 wind turbines off the coast of France:

In recent years, technology has improved to include larger and more versatile turbines (i.e., floating wind farm applications), capable of producing more energy. Installing them offshore minimizes the impact of these larger turbines on both visual and noise pollution. However, installing these massive structures is only half the battle. Capturing and transporting the energy produced offshore, including running underwater/underground cables and ultimately connecting to the electricity grid, takes massive amounts of planning and development.

RTE, an electricity network and transportation company, is working to do just that. MI-GSO | PCUBED, as its project management partner, is supporting the project management activities across several French offshore wind farm projects as they connect to the power grid on land.

visual with text description of offshore wind power connecting to power stations on land
Connecting Offshore Wind Power to the Grid

Challenge

Building electricity lines from the offshore wind farms to the grid is a large undertaking. It takes years of planning and scheduling before construction can begin, with strict regulations governing the project. Therefore, scheduling and cost predictions must be very accurate, and all completed with proper documentation.

Additionally, many organizations are involved. Land development contracts must be signed for often covering multiple municipalities. Alignment must be secured between the wind farm developer and the energy transportation company for connecting cabling to the offshore substation. Documentation must be provided to the governance committees and administrative authority. Such a complex project stakeholder group requires significant coordination.

Another challenge lies in managing the project finances. Since many projects to connect offshore wind farm to the grid connection are publicly funded, there are additional layers of approval required and a close eye must be kept on the project’s spending. Any risk that could impact the cost of the project must be quickly identified and addressed. Likewise, the schedule must always be up to date, highlighting the risk of any potential delays.

Solution

MI-GSO | PCUBED was engaged by RTE to develop and deploy a full-scope PMO responsible for:

  • Schedule Management
  • Cost Management
  • Risk Management
  • Reporting

The team works with the client to ensure the project is well managed, with accurate and predictive project controls. The project stakeholders must know exactly how the project is progressing compared to the baseline and what is coming down the road. The team monitors the integrated master project schedule across all levels to ensure all key milestones are met on time and within budget.

off-shore wind farm at daybreak
Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

The PMO is also responsible for completing a monthly budget analysis, understanding what has been spent to date across the program, estimate to completion, deviation monitoring to the baseline, status against the contingency budget, and working with the management team to re-baseline where there are significant approved changes in scope.

As the project falls under governmental oversight, the team helps RTE to document and report on project status on a monthly basis. This includes the preparation and facilitation of both internal and external reviews. By creating digital dashboards though Qlik Sense, our team provides dynamic reports that highlight the right information for project stakeholders with the minimum amount of overhead.

While monitoring progress data allows the team to know where the project stands, a key aspect of providing the right information lies in analyzing the project’s risks. With offshore projects there are many factors that can affect the project’s deliverables including weather delays, worker availability, contract signing delays, and equipment deliveries.

In a project of this size, even small risks can accumulate and create much larger problems if unresolved. The team must evaluate forecasted data to act before issues arise. Therefore, the team is focused on deploying project risk management best practices including:

  • Establishment of the risk register
  • Completion of risk assessments and impact analysis
  • Integration into probabilistic analysis
  • Facilitation of project risk reviews

The M|P team performs detailed risk assessments and analyzes potential impacts using a standard Monte Carlo simulation. The team also conducts regular project risk reviews with corresponding updates of the client’s risk register. This way project managers can either mitigate risks before they occur or implement action plans in response to those that are deemed inevitable.

electricity workers and pylon silhouette

Benefit

The M|P team has helped RTE to deliver several important milestones during the project’s planning phase including investment decisions and the start of on-site construction. The delivery of these beginning stages greatly impacts the overall project timeline and budget. Gaining the necessary approvals and kicking off the project has successfully paved the way for the timely completion of the rest of the project.

Our experience not only in PMO setup and delivery, but across many industries has been particularly useful for RTE. With some coming from industries like Oil & Gas or Nuclear, our team understands the constraints and the complexities of these large-scale megaprojects.

For such large projects under government scrutiny RTE has upgraded its project management system. Our experience not only in PMO setup and delivery, but across many industries has been particularly useful to minimize setup duration and provide added value to RTE project teams. Our project management consultants have not only demonstrated the ability to adapt to RTE specific project controls requirements, but also to fully integrate within RTE project team.

One key risk identified was during contractor selection. M|P jumped in to support RTE with a tailored supplier selection process which consultants had carried over from the nuclear industry. The team gathered and analyzed the various contractor schedules and qualifications, ranking them against identified selection criteria. The clarified process allowed the client to bring stability and reduce the perceived risk in this area of the project.

MI-GSO | PCUBED is proud to work with RTE, a main actor of the French energy “transition”. Working as a partner, our team of project managers and data analysts are excited to see the successful outcomes of this project as it continues to progress.

This article was written by Elaina Wheeler.

This article was written by Elaina Wheeler in collaboration with Noemi Lombardo.