U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Federal Energy Management Program – Guide to Integrating Renewable Energy in Federal Construction

Operations and Maintenance

Roadmap showing Operations and Maintenance highlighted.

Operations and maintenance (O&M) programs are critical to successfully integrating renewable energy into new Federal building construction and major renovations. This overview covers the importance of O&M programs for renewable energy projects, creating a successful O&M program, and identifying the right team to carry out the program. It highlights typical renewable energy issues and recommends following the design, specifications, and recommendations from product manufacturers.

Key Actions in Operations and Maintenance

  • Make O&M a priority to protect agency investment.
  • Include O&M input in design reviews.
  • Require O&M manuals and training as closeout in any construction contracts.
  • Provide training so facility staff is comfortable with new technologies.
  • Assemble a team of accredited experts in specific renewable energy technologies. This can use a mix of third-party contracts, new hires, and internal training.

Operations and maintenance programs should enhance and optimize the operation of a building and its equipment, such as HVAC, lighting, and renewable energy systems. Proper O&M ensures the building and systems operate safely, reliably, and efficiently. It also ensures that Federal agencies get the most out of renewable energy investment. Reducing inappropriate or premature equipment failure through corrective and preventive maintenance is critical to equipment life expectancy.

O&M requirements and costs should be considered when selecting renewable energy technologies because they affect the budget and may influence design choices. O&M for renewable energy systems could be performed by in-house staff, a third party, or through a project funding agreement, such as an energy savings performance contract (ESPC), utility energy service contract (UESC), or power purchase agreement (PPA).

O&M procedures vary significantly among renewable energy technologies. At one end of the spectrum, passive systems, such as passive heating or daylighting, have little O&M beyond the typical building envelope. More complex renewable energy systems, such as a wind turbine or a biomass heating facility, require detailed and ongoing O&M.

Operations and maintenance budget should be planned appropriately and considered as early as the planning and programming phase. O&M costs typically consist of equipment maintenance costs, such as equipment and parts replacement, and labor costs. Technology-specific procedures and cost information can be found in the technology resource pages.

A well-designed O&M program ensures renewable energy systems and equipment meet expected performance criteria. This prevents renewable energy system failures, which can lead to disruptions and energy production losses. A well-functioning O&M program not only handles complaints; it also formulates proactive responses and correct practices to mitigate problems.

Once the operations and maintenance program is defined in a renewable energy project, a typical O&M process can be applied. The three major components of the O&M program include:

Operations and Maintenance Manual

An operations and maintenance manual is typically developed by the general contractor and verified by the commissioning agent. It should have customized specifics of the renewable energy system to ensure optimal system production and performance.

Given the complexities of many renewable energy systems, the O&M manual should be thorough and user-friendly, clearly define the roles and responsibilities of O&M staff, and be accessible to all staff. The goal is to support the life-cycle of the system by eliminating unplanned shutdowns and realizing life-cycle cost savings.

The manual typically contains maintenance schedules and checklists, manufacturer installation and maintenance instructions, troubleshooting procedures to solve system malfunction problems, special inspection verification and certificates of completion, and safe operating procedures. Custom-designed renewable energy systems also need full details on the design and operation of the system in addition to manufacturer's literature. Tracking procedures and forms aids in tracking actual equipment performance against expected performance.

More information and details can be found in the operations and maintenance manual section.

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Building a Team

Trained and experienced O&M teams are critical to ensuring the operations and maintenance plan for the renewable energy system is implemented systematically and effectively. If an O&M team is not familiar with the renewable energy technologies and their interaction with other building systems, the equipment can be underused and miss performance targets. A mix of training, new hires, and outside contracts may be used to meet experience requirements of the O&M program.

In-house staff should also have a thorough understanding of the O&M procedures, whether it will be performed in-house, outsourced, or included as part of a project funding package. A centralized team serving multiple facilities or campuses can be very cost-effective.

Operations and maintenance staff familiar and experienced with renewable energy technologies should review building designs to identify and resolve O&M issues as early as possible.

More information is available in the operations and maintenance team section.

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After renewable energy systems are designed, installed, and commissioned, building O&M staff need training to make sure that the systems function at the highest level. This usually involves hands-on training with the equipment and a full O&M manual that can be used as a daily reference.

The agency should also look for early opportunities to train key facility staff, including early training on general renewable energy and energy efficiency issues as well as observing commissioning activities to gain hands-on experience with the new systems.

Formal O&M training with construction closeout should cover basic information about the workings of the technology and the amount of energy the system will typically produce. It should also supply practical information on operating and maintaining systems, understanding measurement and verification systems, and troubleshooting any problems. Training should also explain how the renewable energy systems affect and interact with other controls and facility systems.

The level of training required depends on the renewable energy technologies. Some technologies are more involved than others. Checklists for any of the renewable energy technologies help the staff perform routine checks on the system. Refresher training for all renewable energy technologies should be offered to ensure the system operates at the highest level throughout its lifetime and that the staff is kept current. To keep training at the forefront, future training courses should be scheduled early.

For additional information, see the operations and maintenance training section.

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Additional Resources

Additional information is available through the following resources:

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