Industry News

Industry News29.05.2024

The role of engineering in the construction of RES

Akhmet Bissenov,

Managing Director, KazBuildExpert LLP


Murat Baimanov,

Development Director,

KazBuildExpert LLP

These days, when attention to environmental issues and sustainable development is becoming increasingly desired, the construction of renewable energy facilities has taken a special place in the construction industry. Such facilities represent a significant technological and managerial challenge that requires the use of innovative solutions and the most effective monitoring of all stages of implementation. In turn, the Government of our country has attached special importance to this issue in recent years, as such projects are crucial for reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

The banking sector is also very active. In Kazakhstan, financing of "green" projects is carried out mainly by development banks. The largest creditor is the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has already provided loans in the amount of 162 billion tenge. The Development Bank of Kazakhstan takes the second place with 67 billion tenge, and the Development Bank of China takes the third place with 29 billion tenge. The most commonly used financing scheme is 70% of the project cost is covered by borrowed funds. In terms of the number of projects, about two thirds have been implemented by Kazakhstani investors, and in terms of installed capacity, 59% of all renewable energy facilities are financed by foreign investors who prefer large projects.

Of course, innovative construction projects cannot be implemented without relevant engineering activities. In addition to the usual standard engineering services, such as technical and designer supervision, the project management service, undeservedly neglected before, comes to the fore. Indeed, project management is an outlook at a project, at construction activities from above, it is the involvement of all participants in the generation of results, it is attention to detail, processes, focus on importance, validity and effectiveness.

Project management helps to prevent a lot of problems, to avoid an increase in the implementation time and cost of the project, because one of the main tasks of this approach is to neutralize the impact of potential risks and change management, since it is these poorly executed processes that lead to cost increases and deadlines.

To highlight how the lack of competent project management and strict quality control critically affect the success of renewable energy initiatives, here are some examples from our experience:

Technical supervision remarks. At one of the projects for construction of wind power plants, the contractor, ignoring the comments of technical supervision regarding the quality of the concrete mix, continued construction and installation work on reinforcement and pouring foundations under the masts of the wind turbine. In turn, the client pursued the goal of completing the project as soon as possible, did not attach importance to the comments, did not respond to the order issued to the contractor and the written notification received. The study of the provided concrete mix designs revealed falsification and non-compliance of the documents with the actual quality of the concrete mix with the design requirements. The engineering company sent a letter to the client's higher-level organization directly to the head office located in the People's Republic of China, which led to an audit by the client's founders. The inspection showed that five foundations did not meet the technical specifications and could not be used as bases for wind power plants. As a result, the foundations with a total volume of about 3,000 cubic meters were declared unsuitable, which significantly affected the timing and cost of the project. Thus, ignoring the comments of technical supervision led to significant financial losses.

Receipt inspection of materials. At the WPP construction project, the contractor did not have the necessary receipt inspection of materials. This has led to the fact that the anchor cages intended for foundations have not been properly checked. After installing the next turbine, the installers failed to tighten the bolts to the required parameters. There was a need to conduct many studies that showed that the quality of anchor nuts did not meet the design requirements. To eliminate the problem, it was decided to dig into 11 foundations, dismantle the concrete and replace all nuts on the anchor cages one- by-one. Such problems caused significant additional costs in both monetary and time terms, significantly affecting the overall cost and timing of the project.

Selection of supplier. During construction of the wind power plant, the contract or did not include requirements for technical characteristics of materials at the stage of selecting suppliers of inert materials, samples of sand and gravel were not requested, field visits to quarries were not carried out. As a result, the contractor, based on unverified information, concluded contracts with quarries for the purchase of large volume of materials. However, during the production of control concrete samples, it turned out that the strength of concrete is not ensured due to the fact that the density of crushed stone is almost two times less than required (800 kg/ m3 instead of 1400 kg/m3). Also, the supplied sand turned out to be too dusty, which required the use of special equipment for cleaning it. What additional costs have arisen? Firstly, it was time, as it was urgently necessary to change the supplier of inert materials.

Secondly, about 40% of the materials paid for under the previous agreement were non-refundable under the terms of the agreement. Thirdly, the quarry of the new supplier was located at a considerable distance from the place of work (500 km), which increased the cost of transportation. Fourth, the cost of equipment for cleaning sand from dust is about 15-20 million tenge. All these costs were not taken into account and included in the initial budget of the project only because the contractor was negligent in choosing a supplier, limited himself to paperwork and phone calls instead of going to the site for actual research, taking samples and making control cubes of concrete mix.

These cases demonstrate the lack of competent, complete and integrated management. The need for detailed and step- by-step project management has been proven not only for the implementation stage, but also at earlier stages, at the design stage.

The lack of management of the design process can also lead to financial and temporary losses, which will certainly affect the quality of project development in general and calculations of the exact amount of materials, in particular. Here are a couple more examples:

Initial data. When developing the estimated documentation for construction of a solar power plant, the design team did not take into account the aggressiveness of the soils to the metal racks of the trackers. This was discovered after the approval of tracker deliveries and the placement of orders. The revealed high aggressiveness of the soils to galvanized metal required additional protection measures, including concreting the bases of the racks. Thus, the initially planned work on the clogging of tracker installations was changed to drilling holes, installing racks and additional concreting, which led to an increase in the cost and timing of work. In this case, the planning did not take into account the physical, technical and chemical properties of the soils, both in terms of bearing capacity and their aggressiveness.

Volumes of materials. At one of the WPP projects, the design and estimate documentation contained specifications of materials with incorrect volume data. During the construction and installation work, itturned out that there was a shortage of fittings associated with the overlap. Such an error cost the client 200 thousand US dollars, since the overlap had to be made in 25 working diameters.

These examples show that in order to achieve the success of projects in the renewable energy sector, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of all the nuances ofthe construction of RES facilities. The most important elements include careful preparation of design estimates, strict technical control over the execution of work, as well as effective management of resources and contractual activities. Neglecting any of these aspects can lead to significant financial losses, an increase in the duration of the project and deterioration in the quality of the work performed.

Given the dynamism of technological progress in the field of RES construction, it is important to be ready for prompt changes to the design documentation, adapting to new technologicalsolutions and changes in regulatory requirements. This requires project management teams to be flexible and dynamic, as well as an established communication system with customers, contractors, regulatory authorities and other project participants.

In the practice of project management, one of the important processes is stakeholder management, which is often ignored, which leads to unjustified problems during the implementation of the project.

The interests of the implicit participants. For example, one of the projects for construction of wind power plant did not take into account the possibility of residents of a nearby village to influence the progress of construction. During the public hearings, promises were made to the population, the fulfillment of which was subsequently delayed. Without waiting for fulfillment of promises, residents blocked access to the concrete pump during the concreting of the foundation, which caused a delay in concreting for 4-6 hours. The supplied concrete began to lose its characteristics, the already poured concrete began to set. As a result, cold joints formed and the "stagnant" concrete did not gain the necessary strength. As a result, the poured foundation was declared unsuitable, losses amounted to more than 100 million tenge.

Errors in the project documentation, ignoring the comments of technical supervision, ill-considered logistics and inefficient management of resources and stakeholders of the projectare the reasons for future failures to meet deadlines and increased cost of projects.

To avoid this, special attention should be paid to a detailed analysis of the construction conditions, including geological, climatic features and potential risks. It is important to ensure strict control over the compliance of the materials and technologies used with the design solutions. These and other important processes for construction of energy facilities, accompanied by engineering project management services, are becoming much more efficient, predictable and more effective.

It is project management in the field of construction of renewable energy facilities that provides an integrated approach, including not only technical and technological aspects, but also deep knowledge and understanding of management processes, including risk and contract management processes.

The experience and professionalism of the project teams, as well as the use of modern methodologies and tools, are the key to the successful implementation of such projects. In this context, it is important not only to strive for innovation, but also to realize the need for continuous training and improvement of management skills to adapt to the constantly changing trends of the construction industry and renewable energy technologies.

The examples given here have a very expensive price of experience, the repetition of which can be eliminated by involving project management engineering companies with experience in the construction of solar and wind energy generation parks.

Our company KazBuildExpert provides all types of engineering services and over 12 years of intense activity has established itself as an innovator, has achieved sustainable leadership in the field of RES, having gained invaluable experience, which includes a lot of examples of problem prevention, has in its arsenal a library of strategies and solutions aimed at minimizing possible risks. Having implemented projects with a total capacity of more than 300 megawatts in solar energy and exceeding 750 megawatts in wind energy, we have established ourselves in the national market as a reliable expert.

Catching trends and being at the forefront, we actively promote our expertise to the international market. We have opened the Kbexpert Limited company in the city of Future - Masdar in the United Arab Emirates and have received approval of a license for project management in construction and engineering in the field of energy conservation. We also joined a consortium with a Belarusian and Uzbek company for CIS projects.

The success of any project, as well as of a company, is based on a continuous commitment to innovation and the highest quality of service provision and intolerance to corruption. We are proud that our team includes more than 45 specialists in the field of quality control in construction, each member of the team brings his/her own unique contribution to the success of our projects. The advantage of our team is confirmed not only by numbers, but also by real results — our projects become a symbol of environmental responsibility, an effective marketing tool for international customers, attracting attention and respect from both business and society as a whole.

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