How do you make sure the commissioning of a clean energy project is done properly? If we had universal agreement on what needs to be done during commissioning, and how it should be done, this would be an easy question.
Unfortunately, the world isn't that simple.
This blog post assumes you are already familiar with the definition of commissioning. For more on the nuance of the definition of commissioning, read the first post of this three-part blog series.
Several industry sub-sectors have made valiant attempts to standardize the commissioning process, to put everyone on the same page. Unfortunately, the scope of differences in projects (even within a single industry sector) are just too vast to cover every possibility.
Take the building industry, where differences between projects can be substantial. In this case, many of the most widely-accepted commissioning Standards (such as ASHRAE 202) define the overall commissioning process quite well. Clearly spelled out are the different people and their roles, as well as the expected outcomes of the commissioning process.
However, I’ve noticed the commissioning process isn’t defined so clearly by industry Standards in other industries. Here, you might see something more informal - accepted standard practice in the industry, but not necessarily spelled out in widely accepted Standards (with a capital 'S'). These generally accepted approaches are often codified by individual entities - electric utilities might have developed detailed commissioning processes that they adopt from one project to the next, but these are usually 'in-house' documents.
What is much more common are industry Standards (there's that capital "S" again) that define procedures for specific tasks that one often sees during commissioning. A good example is IEC/EN 61400-12-1 which describes the procedures for performance testing of a single wind turbine. Such procedure Standards provide a step-by-step 'recipe book' for important tasks that project Owners, turbine suppliers, engineers and technicians already implicitly agree upon. But what isn’t spelled out is who is responsible for ensuring the right people are providing oversight of the process, how this should be co-ordinated with the commissioning of other project components such as the plant SCADA system or switch yard, and what procedures should be applied for these other portions of the project.
Where pre-existing process Standards exist, the commissioning procedures are not necessarily defined as part of that process description. Where widely accepted procedures exist for certain commissioning tasks, this does not necessarily mean that there is a good overarching process in place.
So, clearly, the success of project commissioning depends on the selection of both a good commissioning process and procedures. But, how do we recognise that?
The upcoming third and final part of this three-part blog series about commissioning will explain the last piece of the puzzle.