As NRG continues its aggressive expansion into renewable energy, the company is also beginning to shift the operations and maintenance (O&M) of its solar and wind plants in-house. The company has revealed to pv magazine that it moved 2.5 GW of solar and wind assets to its internal O&M team last year, including the massive California Valley Solar Ranch plant, and is planning to take over O&M on 900 MW of new wind and solar projects, including 300 MW that will come online this year.
NRG has been performing O&M on its wind fleet since 2008, and currently has an operations center that is certified by the PJM Interconnection and is California ISO market rules proficient. The company notes multiple advantages of the in-house approach.
“Using in-house O&M can provide us a better consistent message on safety, and a fuller, deeper understanding of our assets as they age,” Mitch Samuelian, NRG Renewables’ VP of operations told pv magazine. “Plus, NRG gains more transparency of mechanical issues, maintenance practices and opportunities to improve as our fleet ages.”
NRG’s 225 full-time O&M and support staff also provide O&M services for projects built and owned by other companies, and currently have 220 MW of third-party wind plants under contract.
Cedric Brehaut of Solichamba Consulting has noted that this is part of a larger trend in the industry, and says that as large independent power producers like NRG continuing to dominate the ownership landscape for solar, they are likely to keep a large share of O&M in-house.
In an article for Solarplaza, Brehaut observes that one of the main advantages of this approach is an alignment of various teams with the main goal of maximizing performance and profitability of assets. And while smaller companies with less experience may struggle with in-house O&M, scale is not an issue for NRG.
NRG may be internalizing risk by taking on more of its own O&M, but it is also building valuable experience. “Inherent in the NRG Energy business model of both owning and operating assets, is the fact that NRG must become an expert in the technologies we touch on a daily basis,” notes NRG’s Samuelian. “This quest for expertise has resulted in NRG becoming one of the largest knowledge repositories with regards to power assets in the United States.”