Clean Technology 2009

Factory vs. Field Construction: Packaged Energy Plant Solutions

H. Dickey
Turbine Air Systems, US

Keywords: Packaged Modular Geothermal Energy Plant Solutions


Selecting packaged technology and factory construction as the preferred approach to building power plants No matter how large the project, key drivers to all geothermal power plant capital investment decisions invariably lead to time and money. Quality, reliability, speed to market, maintainability, constructability, efficiency, first cost, service, and all other key decision variables, are normally quantified in terms of financial (Payback, NPV, IRR) and schedule (time to produce MW-hrs) impact. As relatively new technology in the geothermal market, packaging (factory construction) has begun to displace the traditional approach to implementing geothermal power plant projects – field construction. With any given project, the first packaged units can arrive on site potentially within 7 months of receipt of order. In weighing the advantages of factory versus field construction, the reasons for increased speed to market and a reduced project schedule include: • Capitalizing on pre-engineered “standard product designs” which can be customized to customer’s site specific requirements. • Eliminating “inclement weather risk” by moving construction from outdoors to a factory controlled environment. • Mitigating “logistic support requirements” (ordering, scheduling, receiving, storing) at the site for well over a 1,000 individual components that are integral to constructing a geothermal power plant. • Enhancing “construction reliability” by utilizing highly skilled management and labor that as a team has built over 2,500 MW of energy plants operating across the world. • Simplifying the overall project management process by employing a “sole source supplier” from product design to commissioning. As a result, project costs and financial drivers are now influenced by: • Utilizing an “ISO 9001:2000 quality process” to streamline and cost reduce the factory construction of the power plant. • Leveraging TAS “purchasing power” as the worlds largest customer of refrigeration technology for packaged energy plants. • Prioritizing “operating efficiency” in standard product designs with the objective of constructing the industry’s most cost effective and rapidly deployable geothermal power plants, i.e. fastest to produce revenue with the lowest cost of energy production (life cycle costs). • Capitalizing on TAS’ significant investment in pre-engineered standard product designs to reduce “engineering design and investment cost”. • Reducing the total project cost with the “manufactured, packaged system approach” versus bearing the cost of constructing a field erected geothermal power plant system. As is well understood in the market for most developers, no two geothermal power plant projects are the same, with some differences in specifications, site challenges, financial drivers (first cost vs. life cycle cost) and component preferences. But the one consideration that serves as a constant, in the industry’s design build process, is that factory construction offers the ability to achieve unprecedented economies of scale and production consistency. Just as other industries have experienced transformation through technological innovation, the geothermal industry is now experiencing the effects of change, especially as noted with high profile projects such as some of the upcoming modular developments.
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