The construction industry plays a key role in the global economy and shows no signs of slowing down. Total construction output alone is projected to grow by an average of 3.6% per year until 2030, higher than in the manufacturing or service sectors.1 This, coupled with forecasts that investment in renewables will peak over the next decade, presents a welcome but challenging opportunity for new construction projects in several key markets.2
While this growth in renewables is leading to positive changes in our industry and transmission networks, such projects are also incredibly capital intensive. Whether it is wind, solar, biomass, renewable diesel or hydrogen, if we are to succeed in this transition, all investment projects must be managed with the highest possible level of efficiency throughout their life cycle.
In an effort to meet this new requirement for maximum project certainty, renewable energy project owners are exploring how technology, specifically in the form of advanced project management systemscan support owners’ – and their partners’ – energy sustainability efforts without negatively impacting project schedules and budgets.
The changing requirements of the construction of renewable energy sources
Given the large amount of data generated across the construction project value chain, the current goal is to aggregate this data into a single platform to derive actionable insights. In a recent survey of organizations involved in capital projects, approximately 71% of respondents identified digital transformation as the biggest enabler of growth in the coming years. Furthermore, 96% of organizations admitted that they could do more with the data they obtained.3
The combined impact of major external and internal trends transforming the construction industry is leading to a long-awaited paradigm shift towards results-driven processes. This has implications for every phase of a project (from the concept or pre-planning stage to design and construction to commissioning and operation) and is changing the very definitions of success that will be used in the industry.
As financiers for renewable energy projects, project owners or their representatives are increasingly involved in all phases of the life cycle, especially in critical renewable projects. Owners may adopt an independent supervisory role or become closely involved in design and construction as active collaborators, depending on the project delivery model. Regardless of the approach, the growing need of owners for better visibility and control requires a more comprehensive and connected digital solution. These enable collaboration and agile decision-making and help in managing and reducing project risks.
With the arrival improved data collection tools and control of digital projects, owners can now anticipate problems before they occur. In addition, they can create more realistic plans and accurately account for and mitigate risks, leading to greater certainty about project outcomes.
Project management systems in all phases of the project
Project management systems, also known simply as project controls, streamline workflows by integrating all the necessary project controls and management processes into a single platform. They help owners access information across project phases and facilitate better monitoring and execution.
Advance planning. Project management connects across disciplines and links estimate/quote/bid information to schedule learn from past performance for risk analysis. They also help improve engineering management, where owners can see design changes in real time and understand their impact on project schedule and cost, so they can decide whether to keep the design or look for alternatives.
Design and construction. The cost of key renewable building materials has risen sharply between 2019 and 2020. This highlights the critical nature of careful monitoring and management of cost and schedule during the design and construction phases. Project management provides the right execution tools to gather project progress from the field and generate performance reports for owners to access.
Startup and operation. Project management can bring together all documentation, controls and models. This will ensure that the owners have a complete historical record of the project that is well documented and can be visualized through a digital twin. A digital twin provides the owner with valuable insights that can be used throughout the life of the asset. All construction and commissioning renewable project data is available to the operations team.
A project management system can also help solve the problem of dealing with disconnected points. While point solutions can be highly effective in specialized functions, the regular introduction of new point solutions can lead to a mix of technologies and data strengths from different vendors, resulting in compatibility and integration issues. In addition, projects may encounter problems with data sharing due to insufficient data standardization and the absence of a consistent framework.
In this context, adoption of an integrated platform, such as a project management system, can make real-time connected data available for owners to understand past context and current status and make more accurate forecasts. These fully enriched and time-sensitive perspectives enable more impactful decision-making that can significantly mitigate risk and improve outcomes.
Look into the future
The need for visibility and collaboration between key stakeholders to increase certainty that capital projects are completed on schedule is clearer than ever. High-stakes renewable project developers and asset owners are increasingly looking for methods and solutions that allow them to independently monitor and evaluate project progress without relying on other stakeholders. In the future, owners will look to leverage tools such as project management systems to perform critical tasks such as risk assessment and related contingency plan development with minimal support from contractors.
With the trend towards greater and more comprehensive renewable energy capital and infrastructure projectsowners have an extremely low tolerance for risk as the expectations of various stakeholders such as investors, communities and end users remain high. It is therefore critical for owners to have the best possible cost and schedule visibility, proactive risk management, and real-time decision-making throughout the project lifecycle.
Solutions such as project management systems, when adopted as an integrated platform, help both owners and contractors meet their strategic goals and effectively manage risk. The power of this connected data, made available through platforms that integrate various project workflows and processes, enables owners to gain greater visibility into the entire lifecycle of their assets, ensuring more successful project outcomes now and in the future.
This article is sponsored by InEight.
1 The future of constructionOxford Economics, September 2021.
2 Net Zero Supercharging, the race to a faster and fairer energy transitionArcadis, 2022.
3 Global Capital Projects Outlook, 2021: Optimism and DigitizationInEight, 2021.
Do you appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and reporting? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica member, supporter, technician or ambassador – or a patron on Patreon.