Where it is installed, renewable generation is altering the operating landscape for power producers. Wind and solar assets are typically placed into the power grid whenever they are available, but since they are intermittent, formerly base loaded power plants are cycled in order to balance the grid.
Unfortunately, many plants were not designed to operate like this and the increased amount of plant cycling induces additional thermal stresses to equipment which can lead to premature failures and forced outages.
Unless it is addressed, cycling can both reduce unit availability and increase operations & maintenance costs, something no plant staff desires. The United States-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that, “A major root cause of increased operations & maintenance costs for many fossil units is cycling.”
To help mitigate the effects of operating like this, plants need to embrace robust reliability programs. Sometimes reliability programs are thought to be part of a maintenance or reliability departments, but this is old thinking because strong reliability programs should be considered a business strategy for competitive advantage.
Maintenance savings are only a small part of any program benefit; in fact Emerson’s Reliability Consulting Group (formerly MRG) estimates that top reliability programs can achieve operational savings that are 5 to 10 times of any maintenance savings.
If your plant cycles, the question to consider is not whether you have a reliability program, but rather how can your reliability program be turned into a competitive advantage?