In this second part we will take a closer look at some additional risks and challenges that renewable energy projects face and how project management can help you deal with them. You can control some risks, such as quality and personnel, but there are events you cannot anticipate or control, such as natural hazards.
Make Renewable Energy Projects Successful with Project Management Part 2Linh Tran, Monday 30 March 2015 | Reading time: unknown
Considering that renewable energy technology is evolving at a very quick pace, it is sometimes hard to keep up with it. Whether a renewable energy project is successful or not often depends on internal and even more on external factors, which is why there is a need for skilled project managers in this sector. Implementing project management tools and methods can help organizations in the renewable energy industry develop and deliver high quality systems more quickly and at lower costs, mostly because they are able to anticipate and mitigate risks as a result of thorough planning.
Further Risks and Challenges of Renewable Energy Projects and how to overcome them
Development and Quality
Defining the project and product scope is one of the most important parts of planning a project. Renewable energy technology is getting increasingly complex and constantly evolving, which is why planning before project start is crucial for the success of a renewable energy project.
It is always difficult to meet a customer’s needs, but in projects that involve renewables, the specific quality expectations are even harder to satisfy. It is hard to measure the quality of a product or project, but there are quantitative standards that can be applied to test whether a project is up to standard. However, as the field is constantly evolving and improving, so do the standards and that is why renewable energy project managers need to continually manage the quality in order to meet customers’ expectations.
There are numerous technology challenges that a renewable energy project can face, such as short life cycles, complex systems, new technology that has not been tested yet etc. A project manager can help offer the development team guidance on how to deal with these challenges and project management methods can help manage the complexity of such undertakings. Testing is a particularly sensitive matter for renewables, because there is often no precedent to draw on. Thus, extensive testing is needed to validate whether a system is working correctly or not. This process of testing and validation is a particular project management challenge. A good method to use here could be the scrum sprint which allows testing of the system in regular intervals and thus, assures that it meets quality expectations.
The renewable energy market is a fast growing one, as a consequence it needs a large quantity of qualified and experienced human resources that can deal with the technical demands of this field. But renewables are not just in competition with fossil fuels when it comes to energy supply, but also when it comes to skilled talent. This shortage of talent can pose a significant risk for renewable energy projects. They might be able to overcome other challenges, but without people, it is impossible to execute a project, let alone successfully.
The first step is to employ an experienced project manager with the necessary planning and technological skills to manage a renewables project. The project manager also needs to have the skill to choose the right people, i.e. engineers, support staff etc., and manage them properly so that they can do a good job and deliver a quality product in the end. Qualified staff can help avoid or at least decrease renewable technology issues, which in turn decreases schedule and cost risks.
Many problems can be anticipated beforehand, e.g. getting a license might take longer than usual, but for renewable energy projects, there are events that nobody can foresee: the force of nature. Planning for a renewable energy project needs to take the natural environment and weather conditions into account.
For example, it would be unwise to erect a wind turbine, which is extremely heavy, on unstable ground. The wind turbines also need to be suitable for the wind speed at that particular location. Other weather related challenges could be that a sudden hurricane might prevent workers getting to the construction site, or harsh winter conditions result in a stop of the project construction for a while.